Mexican government freezes 18 bank accounts linked to the Sinaloa Cartel and Rafael Caro Quintero

“MX” for Borderland Beat

Rafeal Caro Quintero and his family, who are also involved in money laundering 

Mexico’s Financial Investigation Unit (UIF) froze 18 bank accounts linked to the Sinaloa Cartel and Rafael Caro Quintero. This decision was made after investigators discovered unusual activity in the accounts and proceeded to do an investigation. Upon discovering organized crime ties, they froze all of the accounts. 

Of the 18 bank accounts, 9 of them were personal bank accounts linked to various Sinaloa Cartel members and 5 were business accounts. These companies offered services in consulting, publicity, construction, jewelry and film and entertainment in Sinaloa and Jalisco The additional 4 bank accounts were owned or controlled by Rafael Caro Quintero.

Details
The 14 bank accounts tied to the Sinaloa Cartel were identified with the help of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The 5 business accounts laundered approximately MXN$2 billion (US$82.2 million). These businesses offered services in consulting, publicity, construction, jewelry and and movie entertainment in Sinaloa and Jalisco.

Investigators were able to identify the first bank account after a Sinaloa Cartel operator received a sum of money from his wife through one of the five business accounts based in Jalisco. That business account issued 58 checks totaling MXN$12.7 million (US$521K). One of the company’s shareholders is a legal representative of over a dozen other businesses that have reported money withdrawals totaling MXN$497 million (US$20.4 million).

Two more unnamed Sinaloa Cartel members used a company to purchase four properties in Culiacan, Sinaloa, for MXN$17.3 million (US$712K). They paid for them using corporate credit cards and appeared as the card’s beneficiaries. However, they did not include this information in their personal tax report, which alerted authorities.

Logo of Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF)

The DEA told Mexican officials that these two money launderers were also linked to a jewelry company that transferred funds to another one based in the U.S. state of Delaware. The transfers totaled MXN$10.4 million (US$428K).

The UIF also identified another Sinaloa Cartel member who owned multiple movie theaters in Culiacan. It was reported that his companies reported over MXN$884 million (US$36.4 million) in earnings and that they received MXN$456 million (US$18.7 million) in cash deposits. Through family members, this person created a construction firm that had cash withdrawals over MXN$100 million (US$4 million).

Background

These anti-money laundering actions are part of an initiative from the UIF to combat drug cartel financials. The UIF believes that such actions will disrupt the operations of the Sinaloa Cartel and limit its ability to pay its members and bribe government officials.
In 2019, the UIF froze nearly MXN$1 billion (US$41 million) in assets from various drug cartels in Mexico. At least 330 bank accounts owned or controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel were frozen last year.

Caro Quintero, the former leader of the Guadalajara Cartel, is wanted for the 1985 murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. In 2013, he was freed from a Mexican state jail on a legal technicality, but an arrest warrant was issued by federal authorities a few months after his release. If Caro Quintero is ever arrested in Mexico, officials say he will likely be extradited to the U.S. 

In the U.S., he is wanted for kidnapping and murder of a U.S. federal officer, as well as drug trafficking, money laundering and for leading a continuous criminal enterprise. The U.S. government is offering a US$20 million bounty for his capture.

Note: Multiple sources were used for this report. For better readability, the sources were linked in the body paragraphs above.