El Salvador Tax Probe Tightens Noose Around Texis Cartel Leader

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As part of a tax evasion investigation, El Salvador prosecutors have seized documents and searched properties belonging to Texis Cartel leader “El Chepe Diablo” and two key business partners, in a sign that the elusive cartel kingpin may yet fall for financial crimes.

The Attorney General’s Office is investigating Jose Adan Salazar, alias “El Chepe Diablo,” the head of hotel chain Hotesa, along with two associates: Juan Umaña Samayoa, the mayor of Metapan, and Samayoa’s son, Wilfredo Guerra Umaña, the head of agro-industrial company Gumarsal.

Prosecutors accuse the men of defrauding the government of nearly $1 million in 2010 and 2011, according to La Prensa Grafica. As part of the investigation, prosecutors searched 17 properties, including the Gumarsal factory, five hotels, three accounting firms, two residences and a gas station, all located in Santa Ana, San Salvador and Usulutan. None of the properties were seized.

The three men are considered top leaders of the drug trafficking group known as the Texis Cartel, but Luis Martinez, head of the Attorney General’s Office in San Salvador, said the current investigation “has no relationship with drugs.” No formal charges have been issued against any of the men and they are not yet officially under arrest, according to Martinez. He did not say whether any would be forthcoming.

As a result of the allegations, two banks also decided to close accounts connected to Gumersal, a multimillion-dollar business that sells wheat and grain.

InSight Crime Analysis

The initial blows to the infamous and elusive Texis Cartel, a key player in the movement of drugs through Central America, came last year with the arrest of Roberto “El Burro” Herrera, one of the group’s leaders, followed by the capture of 16 of his alleged associates.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of the Texis Cartel

Reaching Chepe Diablo, however, has been difficult. He and the other two men currently under investigation for tax fraud maintain high-level relationships with politicians and Salvadoran business leaders, and are thought to be the financial arm of the cartel. There have been allegations made that both Gumarsal and Salazar’s hotel chain have been used to launder money. Though Guerra insists his business is clean, competitors have accused him of using drug money to undercut wheat prices.

While tax evasion allegations may seem less serious than drug trafficking charges, the investigation into Salazar and his compatriots is important, as the crew were long seen as untouchable. The seized documents may also ultimately lead to more damning findings.

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