Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

New arrest warrant for Hipolito Mora, suspected of kidnapping

Thursday, September 18, 2014 |

Chivis Martinez for Borderland Beat

Mora and Mireles after Mor's release, speaking at the university of Mexico City
A new arrest warrant is confirmed for former autodefensa founder Hipolito Mora Chavez.  When Mora was released from prison, he accepted Commissioner Alfredo Castillo's offer to join the federal government generated Michoacán police known as the Rurales.

He had been  imprisoned on charges of murder, which in reality, stemmed from a personal dispute with then leader of Buenavista autodefensas (H3) El Americano, who is now one of the Castillo handpicked commanders of the Rurales.  Americano has been plagued with rumors of having ties to Viagras cartel since the onset of his  AD group.  

In March, BB began posting a screen shot of Americano with Tuta and the viagras leader Carols Sierra Santana.  BB posted the screenshot each month since March; finally it went viral in August.  So much so the state had no choice but to "investigate" and “interrogate”  Americano.  

Of course he said the man in the photo was not him, and of course the state PGJE agency’s investigation declared it not him, by "image enhancing tools", yet the PGR did not offer one enhanced image of evidence.  Residents of Michoacán largely discounted the investigation findings, based on the deep mistrust of the state government and its agencies that are deemed corrupt by the people. 
When released from prison, Mora joined Dr. Manuel Mireles and other leading social activists, in their Soy Autodefensa movement.  He later gave into Castillo and joined the Rurales.  Dr Mireles was not bitter and told this reporter, "Lito is doing what he must for the safety of his family.  I understand that, and understand he has been through psychological torture from his incarceration on false charges."  

Perhaps so.

But he then surfaced singing a different tune,  seemingly accusatory against Dr Mireles, subsequent to the doctors arrest. Yet, he chose to say the doctor was wrong to have weapons.  That he broke the law.  It was shocking and a betrayal of his friend, who stood by him and campaigned for Mora's release from prison when the tables were turned.

However, when the Americano photo went viral, Mora came out and began issuing comments and interviews confirming it was Americano in the photo.  It was a gutsy move, albeit unwise, as President Pena appointed Castillo to "bring security" to Michoacan.  It was Castillo who created the Rurales, its his baby, for him to concede that the group is comprised of criminals, and led by criminals, in collusion with organized crime, would be a huge personal blow.

After Mora began speaking out about Americano and the woes of rurales not being paid and half have no weapons, the arrest warrant initiated.

The new arrest warrant for  Hipolito  Mora, is for the crime of kidnapping. Yet,  the founder of the self-defense of  La Ruana Michoacán, continues working as a member of the State Rural Force.

The new warrant was confirmed by the Second Court of Michoacán.  According to the record 810/2014, Chávez and José Arnulfo Mora Torres sought the protection of the federal courts on August 21, (amparo) as they feared that they were going to stop based on a complaint against him by the inhabitants of the town of Yurécuaro.

"Someone claimed that I was with my people in Yurécuaro  and we took a person, and that's a lie, because I've never been to Yurécuaro" Mora said.  

He said yesterday that Michoacán is now worse than ever, "The good sit in jail and the bad on the streets and on the roads, "said Mora, the commander of the Rurales force. 

When Mora was previously arrested, it was based on the testimony of one person, yet he was imprisoned for months.   

Perhaps the arrest warrant is simply a warning, to keep his mouth shut and fall into line.  He knows well what happens to people that buck the system and have a platform to criticize the government. He look no further than the doctor who sits in the Hermosillo federal prison.
a second story....

Mexican Government's Method of Quelling Activism...Imprisoning  leaders
"I see more clearly, and I admire even more the strength and dignity of other social activists who are in the same situation as I, such as (José Manuel) Mireles, Michoacan; Nestora Salgado, Juan Carlos Flores and Enedina Rosas, Puebla, and many others who face unjust punishment."

They accuse Mario Luna Romero of the alleged crimes of illegal deprivation of liberty and vehicular theft to the detriment of Viviana Bacasegua and Francisco Delgado Romo.

Although the Yaqui tribal spokesman denies involvement in these events, the Sonora Attorney General arrested Luna Romero last week, and he is currently being held at the Center for Social Rehabilitation #2 in Hermosillo, awaiting definition of his legal situation.

From prison, Luna responded to a set of questions submitted by La Jornada in which he stated that there is no valid legal argument for him to be held; thus, he declared himself a political prisoner. In refuting the charges, he said:
"It is clearly evident that I am a political prisoner, because they are violating all my political, constitutional and human rights. They accuse me of a nonexistent crime, in which I was not a participant."

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San Antonio: Former Coahuila Treasurer Pleads Guilty to Money Laundering

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 |

By Chivís Martínez for Borderland Beat

The former treasurer of Coahuila, during the Humberto Moreira governorship, Javier Villareal Hernandez, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy of money laundering in federal court in San Antonio, Texas.   

He continued as treasurer for a short while in 2011, during the interim governorship of Governor Jorge Juan Torres-Lopez, who took the helm when Moreira resigned to become the national PRI president.

Torres was charged with money laundering and other financial crimes in the state of Texas

Among other Coahuila charges, Villareal is accused of being involved in falsifying documents to obtain loans on behalf of the State.  Villareal, and the Moreira administration racked up a debt from around 200 million to 35 billion dollars in just five years. 

From 2008, while serving as Coahuila's treasurer, Villarreal took out loans worth $246 million dollars in the state's name.  He also is charged with receiving kickbacks for state contracts, and from a Coahuila coal mining company, a front for Los Zetas cartel. He funneled the funds into extensive Texas real estate holdings, and bank accounts in Bermuda and Texas, in the names of family members.

In October 2011, Villarreal Hernandez was arrested and admitted to  a prison in the state capital of  Saltillo proceeding an arrest warrant issued by the Second Judge of in Criminal Matters of the judicial district of Saltillo, for his alleged responsibility in the commission of offenses Using False Documents and to Fraud. 

However, after posting bond, he fled, and was a fugitive in Mexico and Texas. In February
2012 he was arrested in Tyler Texas, with $67,000 dollars in cash but he was released after being taken to a U.S. Homeland Security facility, then he was on the run again.

Ultimately,he gave himself up in El Paso Texas in February, 2014.  He was charged with money laundering of drug trafficking proceeds, bribery and fraud.

Today the 43 year old Villareal, plead guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy and conspiring to transport stolen money in foreign commerce in the San Antonio case and guilty in another charge in Corpus Christi of conspiring to launder money.

Prosecutors dismissed one count of money laundering for the guilty plea of conspiracy of money laundering.

He could receive a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison on each of the money laundering counts and to five years on the money transporting charge. 

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez presided over the case, and has not yet set a sentencing date.
Astonishingly, former governor Humberto Moreira, is yet to be charged with any wrongdoing, although the scandal forced his resignation as chief of the PRI national presidency.  His brother Ruben became the governor after Torres, and currently is the governor of Coahuila

The brothers suffered a fracture in their once close relationship, and no longer speak.

Humberto Moreira was named by Forbes Magazine as one of "The 10 Most Corrupt Mexicans in 2013".  He was enraged at the infamous nod, and threatened to sue the magazine.  As expected, his bluster amounted to nothing.   (photo of the Ten is below)

Too bad. If he filed a civil suit against Forbes, he would not have a choice but to testify and answer some interesting questions about all the missing Coahuila funds during his governorship.

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CAF cell leader arrested in Mazatlan, Sinaloa.


Salvador Alcala Gonzalez aka "El Chava".

Salvador Alcala Gonzalez aka "El Chava" a prominent member of the Tijuana cartel and one of the most wanted criminals by the FBI was arrested in Mazatlan, Sinaloa by elements of the Mexican Army and Federal Police.

Mexican authorities arrested Alcala Gonzalez under an extradition warrant issued against him.

The Mexican National Security Commission informed of the capture of CAF´s cell leader and mentioned it was the result of intelligence work which followed Alcala over several cities in the northern pacific in Mexico in which he moved.

It was noted that at the moment of his arrest Alcala tried to bribe the authorities to no avail.

Salvador Alcala Gonzalez is wanted in the United States of America facing charges of conspiration to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine in the southern district of California.

In 2013, and as a result of the same investigation, Cesar Alfredo Meza Garcia aka "El Tachuelas" (former CAF cell leader) was deported to the US, Miguel Angel Bravo Peña and Jose Luis Casillas remain at large as of this writing.

In 2012 and 2013, Salvador Alcala tried several legal actions to stop his extradition order to no avail.

Alcala Gonzalez has already been taken to Altiplano´s Maximum Security Prison in Almoloya de Juarez, Estado de Mexico.


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Update: "El Atlante" Rumored to Have Been Arrested in Jalisco


As reported by Uriradio, Alfonso "El Atlante" Lira Sotelo, a member of the Sinaloa Cartel was allegedly captured Tuesday, September 17 in Jalisco. "El Atlante" is reportedly in charge of retail drug sales in Tijuana, Tecate, and Playas de Rosarito, as well as trafficking to California.

Borderland Beat reporter J wrote in August in the article "Blood & White Gold in Tijuana" that "El Atlante" has been fighting against fellow Sinaloa Cartel member Alfredo "El Aquiles" Azarte García for power in Tijuana and Rosarito, ignoring calls from leadership to keep the plaza calm. It is also worth noting that deelucky1 has said multiple times on the forum that "El Atlante" is currently aligned with Jose Antonio "El Tigre" Soto Gastelum and José Luis "El Güero Chompas" Mendoza Uriarte in the fight against "El Aquiles".

Additional information is being reported by Zeta. It writes that "El Atlante" was arrested around 2:00 PM by federal forces in Guadalajara, Jalisco.  He was accompanied by two bodyguards and was arrested for possession of a weapon of exclusive use of armed forces.  He was turned over to the public minister due to an order of presentation in August stemming from declarations given before SEIDO (Deputy Attorney General Specialized in the Investigation of Organized Crime) by three criminals who were arrested on August 12.  Surprisingly, no arrest warrants exist for him in the state of Baja California, although federal sources stated off record that he is wanted by the United States.  In a coordinated action, some of his operators were arrested in Tijuana, but no additional information has been given.

It further stated that his name began to be heard in declarations of arrestees in 2012, which placed him as a member of Los Teos. Thereafter, he was reported to have become a cell leader under the command of "El Aquiles". Over the past two years he rose in power and notoriety through death threats and killing of drug dealers and distributors that refused to work for him.

AFN reported much of the same details, but added that the announcement of his arrest was delayed pending him being positively identified as he had undergone several surgeries that had changed his appearance.  He was taken to Mexico City, were he is being questioned by agents of SIEDO, and operations in Sinaloa and Baja California have already been conducted based upon information given by him.

He is further reported to have controlled the majority of drug distributors in eastern, southern, and northern Tijuana, particularly the area of the  communities near the Corredor 2000, which include the colonias of  Sánchez Taboada and Camino Verde, la Zona Norte and parts of San Antonio de los Buenos.

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Texas Identifies 7 Mexican Cartels operating in the state


Chivís Martínez for Borderland Beat

Cartels in Texas
Seven Mexican cartels operating in Texas, representing the greatest threat the security of the state. (click chart to enlarge)

Criminal organizations smuggle drugs, people and are involved in the laundering of money,  trafficking of weapons and stolen vehicles. 

The Department of Public Safety Texas (DPS)identifies the Gulf Cartel (CDG), Sinaloa Federation, Juarez Cartel, La Familia Michoacana, the Beltran Leyva cartel,  "Los Zetas" and the Knights Templar (Caballeros Templarios operating in its territory. 

The report states that Mexican mafias throughout the United States dominate the business of narcotics and human trafficking.

The analysis was presented by the DPS the Texan Congress after lawmakers requested the government provide a breakdown statistics of incidents on the border with Mexico and the criminal activity that has been recorded since the entry into force Operation Strong Safety (OSS), on 23 July.

The DPS prepared with declassified information board of Texas border security and report relevant incidents in the border, which are published on the website of the corporation for any citizen to consult them.

“The goal of this data-driven, multi-agency operation in high-threat areas for a sustained period of time is to deny Mexican cartels and their associates the ability to move drugs and people into Texas between the ports of entry, as well as reduce the power of these organizations, whose success depends on their ability to operate on both sides of the border,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “

At the request of the Texas Legislature, DPS is providing unclassified, detailed information about the trends that have been developing along the border for some time, as well as the current activity occurring in the OSS area of operation.”

A website is available to the public that highlights "significant, cartel incidents".

Narco Danger 
Texas on June 23 deployed to  its south  border with Mexico, thousand troops.of the Texas  state National Guard.

The action,  aims to help the DPS to combat criminal activity in the region, by air, water and land.

Rick Perry, governor of Texas, said on July 21 that the initiative "is the result of the failure of the federal government to secure the border."

He stressed: "There can be no homeland security without border security and the Texans have paid a heavy price for the failure of the federal government. The action command will stop the crisis, multiplying our efforts to combat criminal cartel activity, trafficking in persons and criminals who threaten the safety of Texas and America."

Perry recalled that from 2008 to now, 203,000 undocumented criminal have been sent to Texas prisons for having committed more than 640,000 offenses in the state, including 3,000 killings and a 8000 sexual offenses.

Perry's office reported that strengthening border yielded immediate results. In the first three weeks of operation, the arrests of illegal immigrants resulted in  36 percent fewer seizures weekly.

The Safety Board, which compiled information throughl September 3, 2014, recognizes that the insecurity of the border with Mexico is the main factor in public vulnerability Texas.

Not specified was an analyzation  of  how each cartel operates.
The number of undocumented immigrants has declined significantly rescued in the state, with deployment on the border of the National Guard. 

With the purpose of evading review road points, coyotes take their victims by off roads and ranches, and often abandon them. .

As an example, the board says Brooks County, near the border with Reynosa, where from 2011 to date have been found remains of 332 humans.

The cartels are big business in human smuggling, as going rates ranging from $2000 up to $20,000.  

The chart below is of 2013, indicating areas of operation of each cartel, Templarios were not considered a factor in 2013. (Click image to enlarge)

Sources: Texas DPS-OSS website

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Calderon "I would have started sooner, with greater force"


In an interview with El Pais on Tuesday, former Mexican President Felipe Calderon concedes that he made mistakes in Mexico’s war on drugs.  He admitted that 60,000 to 70,000 dead represented a lot of casualties in his war on drugs, which spanned from 2006 to 2012.

“Yes, that’s a lot. And each one weighs on me more than anything, but those homicides were committed by criminals that I was fighting against,” he said.

The National Commission on Human Rights has also alleged there was a sharp increase in torture and mistreatment complaints during that period. "It’s true that federal operations increased and that there were abuses. However, they were the exception, not the norm. 

In all cases, the government took note and acted according to rule of law to bring to justice those responsible,” Calderon said.

Asked what part of his strategy he would have changed, Calderon said: “I would have started the changes a lot earlier, with greater force and more resources.” If he had done nothing, Mexico today would have been an open stage for organized crime, he argued.

Calderon referred to organized crime as a national sickness, which like a cancer patient, needs radical chemo-therapy like measures to cure. It leaves the patient in pain, but “it’s not the doctor’s fault.”
Moving forward, the ex-statesman said that now  “I sleep better. I have less problems to think about.”

EL Pais and Telesur

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Mexico's PGR Agency Designates 7 of 9 Cartels Controlling 43 Cells

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 |

Borderland Beat Republished from Excelsior
                                                   click on images to enlarge

The Attorney General's Office (PGR) claim nine cartels operate in the country and that seven of them control 43 cells or criminal gangs.

The nine criminal organizations, moreover acknowledged by the Attorney General, are the Pacific cartel, Arellano Felix, La Familia Michoacana , Carrillo Fuentes, Beltrán Leyva, Los Zetas , the Gulf cartel, The Caballeros Templarios and Cartel Jalisco New Generation.

In a public information request, the agency acknowledged that the Gulf Cartel is the greatest number of cells or gangs with 12.

Los Zetas have nine criminal divisions, while the Pacific has eight gangs linked to the cartel, and the Beltran Leyva organization six.

These organizations operate in 23 states.

Guerrero has with four, followed by Baja California and Chihuahua, with three each.

The Caballeros Templarios and  Cartel Jalisco New Generation cartels are the only two that PGR did not name gangs linked to their organization.
Cartels operate with 43 criminal cells

The Attorney General's Office (PGR) said that nine cartels in Mexico  that are formed into 43 criminal cells operating.

Criminal organizations are present in 23 entities. Guerrero is the entity with more presence of cartels, with four. Still in Baja California and Chihuahua list, with three groups each.

 Pacific cartel has eight subgroups: 
 Gente Nueva (Chihuahua and  Sinaloa), Los Cabrera (Durango y Chihuahua), La Barredora (Guerrero), A criminal cell named  Cártel del Poniente ( active in Durango and Coahuila), a group El Aquiles (BC), another  El Tigre (BC), Los Artistas Asesinos or AA and  Los Mexicles (Chihuahua)

The Arellano Felix organization groups operate three criminals: Los Chan, El Jorquera and  El Kieto, in the state of  Baja California.

 La Familia Michoacana operates in at least four states in Mexico: 

Guerreros Unidos and  La Nueva Empresa, with operations in Morelos, Guerrero, and Mexico State.  And the Attorney ranks as a "defector" group, La Empresa , with influence in State of Mexico and Morelos.

The Carrillo Fuentes have two subgroups: 

La Linea and Los Aztecas , active in  Chihuahua.

The Beltran Leyva organization are seven groups:  

 Los Mazatlecos (Sinaloa and Baja California Sur), a group operating in Sonora, known as El 2000 —also identified as El Panchillo or El Panchillo Huevos—, Los Granados (native to the region of  Tierra Caliente of Guerrero), Los Rojos (operating in the north and central region of  Guerrero and  Morelos), La Oficina (Aguascalientes and  Baja California Sur), Los Ardillos (active in the mountain region and central  Guerrero) and El Cártel Independiente of Acapulco or CIDA, with presence in Guerrero.

Los Zetas in Tamaulipas marked influence indentified by  PGR new divisions:  

Sangre Zeta (Coahuila and  Nuevo León), Grupo Operativo Zetas (El Mante, Soto La Marina and  Victoria,  Tamaulipas), Comando Zetas (Reynosa, Matamoros, Nuevo Laredo, Miguel Alemán, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz and  Ciudad Mier, in Tamaulipas), El Círculo and  El Extranjero (operating in   Jiménez, Victoria, Ciudad Madero and Abasolo, in Tamaulipas), Unidad Zetas (Nuevo Laredo), Néctar Lima (Nuevo Laredo), Grupo Delta Zeta (Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas), Los Negros (Irapuato, Guanajuato) and  Fuerzas Especiales, operating in  Cárdenas, Huimanguillo y Centro, Tabasco; Cancún, Quintana Roo, and parts of  Tamaulipas.

Gulf cartel, with 12 criminal groups, mainly in Tamaulipas:  

Metros (Reynosa), Rojos (Matamoros), Grupo Lacoste, Grupo Dragones (Tampico), Grupo Bravo (Aldama), Grupo Pumas (El Mante), Grupo de Apoyo Ceros or M3 (Reynosa), Los Fresitas, Los Sierra, Los Pantera and  Los Ciclones (unidentified parts of  Tamaulipas), same with  Los Pelones, in parts of  Cancún, Quintana Roo.

La Caballeros Templarios: 

The PGR does not identify cells or criminal gangs linked to Los Caballeros Templarios, but has reports of their presence in Michoacan, Guerrero, Guanajuato, Morelos, State of Mexico, Jalisco, Colima, Queretaro and Baja California.

Cartel Jalisco New Generation:

Operates in Jalisco, Colima, Michoacán, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Guerrero, Morelos, Veracruz and Mexico City and PGR does not name  links to criminal cells.

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Knights Templar abduct Brother-in-law of Dr Mireles

Monday, September 15, 2014 |

Chivis Martinez for Borderland Beat 

Autodefensa leader, Dr. Mireles has spoken of the abductions of family members occurring prior to his involvement with the autodefensas movement.  It is one of the reasons he became involved.    The majority of the victims  were released,  after ransom paid, including the Doctor who was kidnapped one evening as he left his clinic.  

On Tuesday September 9th  Juan Carlos Marín, the brother-in-law of of José Manuel Mireles Valverde, was abducted, when members  of  the Caballeros Templarios Cartel, burst into the home of  Patricia Mireles, the  sister of Dr Mireles.

In an interview with Carmen Aristegui, Talía Vasquez, the  attorney of the autodefensa leader, reported that armed members of the Templarios,  entered the Ciudad Hidalgo home of  Patricia Mireles, the younger sister of Mireles , restrained her by tying her up  and forcefully took her husband, fleeing in the family vehicle.

Talia Vázquez denounced the forced disappearance of her clients, brother-in-law  as part of the serious crisis of insecurity in Michoacán, she further stated that notice was given to the governor Salvador Jara and anti-kidnapping unit.

However, until today the broadcast media was avoided to protect the victim.

This is the third time the brother-in-law  of José Manuel Mireles is deprived of his liberty, and the kidnappers were in contact with the family and asked for a ransom of five million pesos which is around 375k USD.  . Meanwhile the anti-kidnapping unit suggested that the family not pay the money.

While  at the home of Patricia Mireles,  the Templarios kidnappers  declared  they would return.

The kidnapping happened a day after that the Templarios leader known as "La Tuta", challenged the government of the President Enrique Peña Nieto, in announcing his imminent return to Michoacán, more forcefully than before.

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Fortune 5: The biggest organized crime groups in the world


Borderland Beat

Yamaguchi Gumi Premier leader Kenichi Shinoda
Time Magazines "Fortune"
It’s tough to go even a few months without seeing the effects of organized crime on the economy and everyday life. The most salient example these days is the rash of thefts of credit card data from big-name retail chains like Home Depot and Target.

While these threats are headline-grabbing and particularly frightening because e-commerce is a relatively new phenomenon and businesses and consumers aren’t totally sure how to protect themselves from hackers, it’s still a drop in the bucket in terms of overall organized crime earnings.

A 2013 survey from Javelin Strategy and Research estimates that the annual total loss to Americans due to identity theft was roughly $20 billion. But much of those costs comes from efforts to prevent identity theft or recover from its effects, rather than what thieves earn from their crimes. 

Compare that to estimates of pure revenue from other forms of organized crime like the drug trade and human trafficking: the Organization of American States estimates that the revenue for cocaine sales in the U.S. has reached $34 billion annually. When you add the market for other illicit drugs and revenue generators like human trafficking and extortion, it becomes clear that organized crime is still making most of its money from its legacy businesses, despite the fact that criminals are always looking for new ways to make a buck.

So, who are the biggest organized crime gangs around the world and how do they make their money? Organized crime revenues are very difficult to estimate, as criminals often spend a significant amount of time trying to hide what they make. Also, “organized crime” is a loosely defined concept. 

Anything from a vast drug smuggling ring to a handful of car thieves can be classified as organized crime groups, and the cohesiveness of organized crime organizations around the world varies widely. Some groups, like Japan’s Yakuza, are highly organized and hierarchical, allowing economists and crime fighters in Japan to attribute much higher revenue totals to Yakuza groups than others around the world. Here are the top five criminal gangs, ranked by revenue estimates:
1. Yamaguchi Gumi—Revenue: $80 billion (Japan)
The largest known gang in the world is called the Yamaguchi Gumi, one of several groups collectively referred to in Japan as “Yakuza,” a term that is roughly equivalent to the American use of “mafia.” The Yamaguchi Gumi make more money from drug trafficking than any other source, according to Hiromitsu Suganuma, Japan’s former national police chief. The next two leading sources of revenue are gambling and extortion, followed closely by “dispute resolution.”

The Yakuza date back hundreds of years, and according to Dennis McCarthy, author of An Economic History of Organized Crime, Yakuza groups are among the most centralized in the world. While other East Asian gangs like Chinese Triads, which are a loose conglomeration of criminals bonded together mostly by familial relations, Yakuza are bound together by “elaborate hierarchies,” and members, once initiated, must subvert all other allegiances in favor of the Yakuza. Even with the Japanese government cracking down on Yakuza in recent years, this centralized structure has made it easy to attribute a massive amount of revenue to this single gang.

The syndicate has its own website and magazine.  The magazine is not for public consumption.  The magazine has an entertainment section (detailed fishing trips by top officials) and even a satirical haiku and stories about board games like Go and Shogi. It also includes a front page piece written by the group’s don, Kenichi Shinoda, where he tells the younger members about the values and disciplines they should imbibe. He also talks about the fact that times are more difficult for the mafia nowadays and they cannot just rely on their “brand” to sustain their operations.

2. Solntsevskaya Bratva—Revenue: $8.5 billion (Russian)
Russian mafia groups sit on the other side of the organizational spectrum from Yakuza. Their structure, according to Frederico Varese, a professor of criminology at the University of Oxford and an expert on international organized crime, is highly decentralized. The group is composed of 10 separate quasi-autonomous “brigades” that operate more or less independently of each other. The group does pool its resources, however, and the money is overseen by a 12-person council that “meets regularly in different parts of the world, often disguising their meetings as festive occasions,” Varesi says.

It’s estimated that the group claims upwards of 9,000 members, and that it’s bread and butter is the drug trade and human trafficking. Russian organized crime in general is heavily involved in the heroin trade that originates in Afghanistan: it’s estimated that Russia consumes about 12% of the world’s heroin, while it contains just 0.5% of the world’s population.

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