Mexico City – Federal police arrested two Colombians and two Mexicans suspected of laundering cash proceeds of narcotics sales for two powerful criminal organizations – Mexico’s Sinaloa and Norte del Valle cartels.
The four suspects, from whom $1.7 million in bills of small denomination was confiscated, were arrested during a meeting in Mexico City.
They were accused of sending proceeds from drug transactions in the United States from Mexico to Central America, South America and Asia, the head of the Federal Police force’s anti-narcotics division, Ramon Pequeño, told a press conference.
The Colombian suspects were identified as 49-year-old Marcos Ivan Espinoza de Leon, alias “Alexander Navarro,” who allegedly served as a liaison between the two cartels; and 41-year-old David Garcia, alias “Dagoberto,” a member of the Norte del Valle cartel and former Colombian soldier.
Espinoza handled the logistics of the money transfers, while Garcia, an ex-sergeant who retired from the army last October after 21 years of service, made wire transfers to different destinations, including China and Hong Kong.
Money was also transferred to Panama, Venezuela and Colombia, among other Latin American countries.
Pequeño said Espinoza also stands accused by the U.S. Justice Department of conspiring with Salomon Camacho Mora, detained in Venezuela in January, to launder drug proceeds.
The two Mexicans were identified as 50-year-old Victor Sanchez Gabriel, who served as a courier for the drug proceeds at the orders of Garcia; and 49-year-old Felipe de Jesus Contreras Hernandez, who worked for the Sinaloa cartel and negotiated and paid for the smuggling of drugs from Colombia to Mexico.
The police also seized an unlicensed SUV and two handguns in the suspects’ possession.
These arrests come less than a month after the capture of two other Mexicans and two Colombians who were also linked to the Norte del Valle cartel.
That Colombian organization is one of the main suppliers of drugs to several Mexican cartels, including the Sinaloa organization.
That latter group, headed by Mexico’s most-wanted fugitive, Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, dominates the drug trade in northwestern Mexico and engages in turf battles with other criminal organizations, including the Juarez cartel and another group headed by the Sinaloa mob’s former allies, the Beltran Leyva brothers.
Mexico has been plagued in recent years by drug-related violence blamed on powerful cartels.
Last year, according to the El Universal newspaper, was the deadliest in Mexico in the past decade, with 7,724 people killed in violent incidents attributed to organized crime groups.
So far this year, drug-related violence has claimed the lives of nearly 2,200 people, the daily says.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has deployed tens of thousands of federal police and army soldiers to various drug-violence hotspots due to rampant corruption among Mexico’s underpaid municipal police officers.