The Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG) has placed itself at the head of the Mexican drug economy, establishing the largest number of businesses to launder money, and unlike other cartels, it went from the real estate business, typical of drug trafficking, to diversifying into money laundering businesses. that few would suspect.
An investigation by MILENIO, prepared with its own databases and reports from the United States Department of the Treasury, reveals that in the last two federal administrations, the cartels have established 136 companies to launder money throughout the country.
The paradise for money laundering is found in Jalisco, mainly in the municipalities of Guadalajara and Zapopan, where they have established businesses that began in construction, real estate companies, and beauty salons: the cliché of the narco money laundering playbook.
However, since 2018 and due to the work of the CJNG, establishments have been set up that broke the stereotypes of the cartels, going unnoticed by the Mexican authorities, or perhaps turning a blind eye, but not by the United States government.
Among them are architecture offices, graphic design offices, pastry shops, tours of the Magical Towns of Mexico, among others. In the last 10 years, most money laundering businesses settled in Jalisco, where crime has increased year after year.
Of the 136 companies that laundered money for the cartels in the last decade, 106 did so in Jalisco, 16 in Sinaloa, and the rest are distributed among various entities.
In the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto, the Sinaloa Cartel began to be displaced as the king of drug businesses by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, who by the end of the period shared preponderance with the Chapo Guzmán mafia.
According to the Latin American Financial Action Task Force (GAFILAT), Mexico faces a significant risk due to the problem of money laundering derived mainly from activities associated with organized crime, such as drug trafficking and extortion.
Revenues from drug trafficking and production are considered an important source of available funds for the country, in addition to the fact that the criminal justice system does not seem to be performing well. Sentences for money launderers are low, that is if they are caught.
Since 2014, drug traffickers began to leave states such as Sinaloa to settle again in Jalisco, as in 1980. According to documents in the United States, the drug traffickers of the Sinaloa Cartel went to settle there on the orders of Rafael Caro Quintero, Juan José Esparragoza Moreno, El Azul, and later by Joaquín el Chapo Guzmán.
Among the businesses that were detected by the United States Government owned by the Sinaloa cartel, there are is the Constructor Segundo Milenio Group, the San Francisco del Rincón Developer, and the Prominente Real Estate, which carried out constructions and buildings in Jalisco.
Another of the great money laundering scandals that would come later, in 2017, when the United States government announced that the businessman Raúl Flores Hernandez, known in the world of drug trafficking as El Tío, laundered money through famous personalities.
It ended up involving sports and entertainment figures such as singer Julión Álvarez and soccer player Rafael Márquez. Among the businesses involved were the Márquez soccer school, the Morumbi sports club, the Camelias Bar, the Lucrecia Bar, the Unknown Hotel, among many others.
During this period of time, at least 14 real estate agencies and construction groups, most of them based in Jalisco, in cities such as Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta, and Zapopan, were sanctioned.
The second sector chosen by drug traffickers was beauty, among which were shopping stores, especially women’s clothing, aesthetics, and beauty salons. Some names that came to light were Plaza los Tules, in Zapopan, and the Xaman há Center, in Playa del Carmen.
The most active years for money laundering were 2013 and 2017, according to US Treasury Department documents.
However, since 2018 the strategy of drug trafficking to launder money through these illicit businesses has changed: the CJNG broke the stereotypes that the Sinaloa Cartel had imposed and became responsible for 78% of all laundered money in the country.
During this six-year term, the US government has detected that the CJNG has laundered money through 23 companies and, in fact, it is difficult to find a pattern: the turn of these is diverse.
There is real estate, but to a lesser extent. In the last four years, only four of these were found, among which are Arquitectura y Diseño en Balance, G y R Arquitectos, and A&A Estudio Arquitectonico.
There are also music production companies and online concert ticket sales. According to the United States, those involved are Gallistica Diamante, Mexican Music Promotion, and Business Ticket Premier.
There are unsuspected ones: Dale Tours, Cabañas La Loma, Master Pastries and Restaurants, and the luxurious Kenzo Sushi and Bake and Kitchen restaurants.
The database prepared by this newspaper also shows that during this six-year term, the Treasury Department has placed 41 people on its “black list”, most of them from the Jalisco New Generation Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel.
2021 has been the year that more people have been placed on this list, with 22 Mexicans accused of having links with drug trafficking.
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