The port of Lazaro Cardenas, a Knights Templar stronghold

Mexico's Knights Templar earns more than $73 million each year outside of its drug trafficking activities, revealing the diverse criminal portfolio of the group and the difficulties authorities face in tackling it.

Raising money from kidnapping and extortion, contraband and counterfeit goods, investments in legitimate businesses, and protection rackets, the group -- which is based in the Pacific coastal state of Michoacan -- earns in excess of $6 million each month, without counting profits from drug sales in the United States, reported Milenio.

According to information gathered by Mexican security services and accessed by Milenio, the group earns $2.2 million each month from local drug transportation and sales, and up to $600,000 more from illegal activities such as car theft, kidnapping and the black market. Close to $1 million is raised each month from extorting businesses, while in excess of $1 million comes from extorting local governments. A further $1.3 million comes from legitimate businesses, which are also used to launder illicit profits.

The breakdown of the Knights Templar's domestic earnings came on the same day it was announced one of the group's leaders, Leopoldo Jaimes Valladares, had been arrested in possession of military-grade weaponry. Jaimes has been accused by authorities of being behind much of the violence carried out in the state, amid suggestions he was involved in coordinated attacks recently carried out against energy installations.

InSight Crime Analysis

The revelation of just how much the Knights Templar earns, before even taking into consideration revenues from the US drug market, supports the notion that it is now one of Mexico's most powerful criminal groups. Its grip over the port of Lazaro Cardenas -- a key entry and departure point for contraband, drugs and precursor chemicals -- has given it a prominent position within the pacific drug trade; something Mexican authorities have recently tried to address by sending federal forces in to take control of the port.  

SEE ALSO: Knights Templar News and Profile

However, previous attempts to confront the Knights Templar with federal force have failed to dislodge the group. Earlier this year a series of attacks against security forces, as well as the assassination of a top naval official -- which were subsequently linked to the Knights Templar -- led to the deployment of federal troops. However the group's power remains unbroken.

The biggest challenge the group seems to have faced is the rise of a vigilante self-defense movement, which claims to oppose criminality and has caused the Knights Templar to cut off fuel and food supplies to certain municipalities. However, accusations that a rival criminal group is funding the vigilantes have muddied the waters of an already complex criminal landscape.  

With the Knights Templar's stronghold now under federal supervision, it remains to be seen whether the group will be adversely affected, or if it will simply return to the fore as soon as federal forces retire.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...