made significant progress this year in our efforts to target drug lords
worldwide and disrupt their support networks.
In order to further these goals, we’ve continued to utilize the
authorities in the Foreign
Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (“Kingpin Act”). The Kingpin Act aims to protect the U.S. financial system by denying
significant foreign narcotics traffickers, their businesses, and operatives
access to the U.S. financial system. The
Act generally prohibits all trade and transactions between the traffickers and the
U.S. This year Treasury
designated 83 individuals and 67 entities pursuant to
the Kingpin Act, and the
President identified six significant
international narcotics traffickers.
In 2013, Treasury focused on cartels operating out of
Mexico and Central America by repeatedly targeting the family members and close
associates of the Sinaloa Cartel, the associates and businesses of Los Zetas, and
an ever-expanding network of narcotics trafficking organizations in Central
America. Treasury also continued to
track the activities of major narcotics trafficking organizations in Colombia.
Below are several of the key Kingpin Act highlights from
this past year, which highlight the continuing actions against priority targets.
January 9, 2013, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated Damaso Lopez Nunez, a top Sinaloa lieutenant and Ines Coronel Barreras, the father-in-law
of Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin “Chapo" Guzman. The two were designated for their role in the
narcotics trafficking activities of Guzman and the Sinaloa Cartel.
- On May 7, 2013, OFAC designated eight plaza bosses working directly for Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia and Chapo Guzman. Plaza
bosses are leaders of a particular geographic area and they coordinate, direct,
and support the smuggling of illegal drugs from Mexico into the U.S. They rely
on violence to maintain their positions, using hitmen to control their specific
geographic area. Through this significant action, OFAC
targeted the busy Sonora, Mexico corridor, which runs into the Tucson and
Phoenix metropolitan areas, and is a major trans-shipment lane for the
smuggling narcotics out of Mexico and into the United States.
- On June 12, 2013, 18 individuals linked to
Rafael Caro Quintero, a significant Mexican drug trafficker, were designated
for their role as front persons, along with 15 companies that are owned and/or
managed by these individuals in Mexico. Rafael
Caro Quintero began his criminal career in the late 1970s when he and others,
including Juan Jose Esparragoza Moreno (a.k.a. “El Azul”), formed the
Guadalajara drug cartel and amassed an illicit fortune. Caro Quintero was
the mastermind behind the kidnapping and murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki”
Camarena in 1985. Caro Quintero was
identified as a Tier I Kingpin by the President in 2000
- On August 22, 2013, OFAC designated five Mexican individuals and published new aliases of seven previously designated companies,
which operate gas stations, linked to another Sinaloa Cartel leader, Jose Esparragoza
Moreno. This action targeted the five
individuals for managing the gas stations on behalf of Esparragoza Moreno and
his network in an attempt to evade OFAC sanctions.
- Also in 2013, Treasury
aggressively targeted the violent Los Zetas, with four separate designation
actions. On August 1, 2013, Treasury designated Carolina Fernandez Gonzalez, wife of Zeta boss Omar Trevino Morales, her father, Jesus Fernandez de Luna, and his cattle sales company, Compania Ganaderia 5 Manantiales. Omar Trevino Morales established this company for his wife and her father-in-law as a money laundering front to be used by Los Zetas. Through this and other actions, Treasury shined the light on various aspects of Los Zetas, including its bulk cash and drug smuggling operations, its international financial operations, and the businesses used by Los Zetas leaders to launder their illicitly gained funds.
- In August 2013, Forbes Magazine reported that “The U.S. Treasury has taken
aggressive steps to target a number of Mexican individuals and business
entities closely linked to the leadership of Mexico’s two major criminal
organizations – the Sinaloa and the Zetas cartels – in an effort to disrupt
their money laundering operations.”
- One of the most influential designations this
year was the September 19 action targeting the Los Cachiros, a Honduran drug
trafficking organization which plays a critical role in the transportation of
narcotics from Colombia to Mexico. On
the same day that Treasury designated this organization, the Government of
Honduras embarked on a week-long seizure action against Los Cachiros’ financial
and commercial assets, including those businesses designated by OFAC, pursuant
to the Honduran Asset Forfeiture Law.
- On July 9, 2013, OFAC
announced the designation of Colombian nationals Isaac Perez Guberek Ravinovicz
and his son, Henry Guberek Grimberg, as well as seven other individuals and 22
entities, including companies located in Colombia, Panama, and Israel.
These 31 individuals and entities comprise a money laundering network
responsible for laundering millions of dollars in drug money connected to
transnational drug trafficking organizations.
Colombian press reporting following the action also identified La Oficina
de Envigado, a Medellin-based criminal organization, and Daniel “El Loco”
Barrera, previously designated pursuant to the Kingpin Act, as traffickers who
used the services of the Guberek network to launder their drug proceeds in
- Two Colombian “bandas criminales” – Los Rastrojos and Los Urabenos – were also targeted under the Kingpin Act in 2013. On January 30, 2013, OFAC designated Los
Rastrojos and its leader, Diego Perez Henao, as specially designated narcotics
traffickers. And on May 31, 2013, the
President identified Los Urabenos as Tier I Kingpins. Los Rastrojos and Los Urabenos have taken over
the narcotics smuggling routes in Colombia, which was once predominately
controlled by Colombian narco-terrorist organizations.
This year’s actions underscore Treasury’s determination to
identify and disrupt those supporting violent drug trafficking organizations
and we will continue to be vigilant in targeting these organizations worldwide
Michael Swanson is
the Assistant Director for the Global Counter-Narcotics Division of the Office
of Foreign Assets Control at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.