Authorities in Mexico captured an alleged top money launderer for Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, but his arrest is unlikely to have a significant impact on the criminal organization’s drug trafficking operations and revenue streams.
On March 27, Mexican Federal Police announced via Twitter the capture of Juan Manuel Álvarez Inzunza, alias “El Rey Midas.” In addition to working for El Chapo, authorities say Álvarez Inzunza laundered drug money for fellow Sinaloa Cartel leader Ismael Zambada García, alias “El Mayo,” reported El Universal.
Authorities estimate that Álvarez Inzunza laundered between $300 and $400 million annually for the Sinaloa Cartel, which comes out to more than $4 billion over the last decade. Álvarez Inzunza was arrested on a provisional extradition warrant for money laundering charges issued by a US District Court Judge in Washington, DC. He was captured in the southern state of Oaxaca while on vacation with his family.
In an official statement following the arrest, federal authorities said they are able to link the presumed Sinaloa Cartel operator to a money laundering network with domestic links to the cities of Tijuana, Culiacán and Guadalajara and with international links to Colombia, Panama and the United States. Álvarez Inzunza allegedly used shell businesses and currency exchange houses in the states of Jalisco and Sinaloa to launder illicit funds.
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Although authorities have identified Álvarez Inzunza as a top financial operator for the Sinaloa Cartel, it’s doubtful his arrest will jeopardize the financial viability of a criminal organization widely considered to be the most prolific drug trafficking network in the Western Hemisphere.
The cartel functions more as a horizontal network of federated cells than a vertically integrated organization. This business model enables the cartel to run its operations with relative stability and avoid volatility following the arrest of a high-ranking figure. Even El Chapo’s capture in February 2014, the world’s most wanted drug trafficker at the time, barely made a dent in the cartel’s revenue streams.
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In fact, the biggest consequence of Álvarez Inzunza’s arrest might only be seen if and when he is extradited to the United States. Prosecutors could offer him a reduced sentence in exchange for valuable intelligence information on the cartel’s financial structure and drug trafficking operations.