US Declares End of Cali Cartel’s Business Empire, but Criminal Legacy Continues

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Authorities in the United States have marked the destruction of the Cali Cartel’s business empire by removing economic sanctions against over 300 people and entities linked to the organization, but there are indications that individuals tied to the cartel continue to participate in illegal activity.

On June 19, the US Department of Treasury announced the removal of economic sanctions against 78 individuals and 230 entities once linked to the Cali Cartel. According to US authorities, the people and businesses removed from the list have proved they no longer participate in illegal activities.

In a press release, the Treasury Department identified the removal as the “largest single delisting” in the history of the sanctions program and credited economic sanctions with the demise of the Cali Cartel’s vast business empire. 

“Today’s action demonstrates the successful use of targeted sanctions,” Adam Szubin, Director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control said in the statement.   

Miguel and Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela, the brothers who ran the Cali Cartel, are now the only members of their family who remain on the list.   

InSight Crime Analysis

During the height of their operations in the 1980s and 1990s, the Cali Cartel trafficked hundreds of tons of cocaine to the United States and Europe and amassed a fortune worth an estimated $12 billion. 

The cartel suffered a blow in 1995 when former US president Bill Clinton signed an executive order approving economic sanctions against suspected drug traffickers including the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers, an extensive list of individuals and businesses that became known as the “Clinton List.” While the tactic successfully targeted front companies used by criminal organizations to launder money, it has come under criticism for applying punitive measures to individuals and businesses without a trial.  

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles 

When the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers were convicted of drug trafficking and money laundering in the United States in 2006, some of their family members agreed to comply with Treasury Department requirements to be removed from the list.

However, the Colombian drugstore chain Drogas La Rebaja, which authorities believe was used by the Cali Cartel to launder money, remains under investigation, while five children of Gilberto and Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela have been charged with concealing assets tied to the cartel’s illegal activities. In addition two former cartel members who have served prison sentences in the United States have returned to Colombia and attempted to retake control of their lost criminal empires in Cali and the Valle del Cauca region.

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