Wed, Jan 11, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Mexico allowed US agents to launder drug money: reports


Mexico’s government allowed a group of undercover US anti-drug agents and their Colombian informant to launder millions of US dollars in cash for a powerful Mexican drug trafficker and his Colombian cocaine supplier, according to documents made public on Monday.

The Mexican magazine Emeequis published portions of documents that describe how US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, a Colombian trafficker-turned-informant and Mexican federal police officers in 2007 infiltrated the Beltran Leyva drug cartel and a cell of money launderers for Colombia’s Valle del Norte cartel in Mexico.

The group of officials conducted at least 15 wire transfers to banks in the US, Canada and China, and smuggled and laundered about US$2.5 million in the US. They lost track of much of that money.

The DEA agent in charge of the operation testified that drug administration agents posing as pilots flew at least one shipment of cocaine from Ecuador to Madrid through a Dallas airport.

The documents are part of an extradition order against Harold Mauricio Poveda-Ortega, a Colombian arrested in Mexico in 2010 on charges of supplying cocaine to Arturo Beltran Leyva. A year earlier, Beltran Leyva was killed in a shootout with Mexican marines in the city of Cuernavaca, south of Mexico City.

The documents show Mexico approved Poveda-Ortega’s extradition to the US in May, but neither Mexican nor US authorities would confirm whether he has been extradited. Mexican authorities listed his first name as “Haroldo.”

In a statement issued late on Monday, Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office said it cooperates with the US in combating money laundering and said the Poveda-Ortega case, like others of its kind, “are carried out strictly within the legal framework.”

While the statement said: “Coordinated money laundering investigations are carried out exclusively by Mexican authorities,” it also noted that “sometimes, these investigations require specialized techniques to detect money laundering, which each agency carries out within its own jurisdiction.”

US officials did not respond to requests for comment.

The documents offer rare glimpses into the way US anti-drug agents are operating in Mexico, an often sensitive subject in a country touchy about national sovereignty.

On one occasion, the informant who began working for the DEA in 2003 after a drug arrest met with the girlfriend of a Colombian drug trafficker in Dallas and offered to move cocaine for their group around the world for US$1,000 per kilo. The informant then introduced the woman to a DEA agent posing as a pilot. The woman is identified as the girlfriend of Horley Rengifo Pareja, who was detained in 2007 accused of laundering money and drug trafficking.

Another scene described the informant negotiating a deal to move a cocaine shipment from Ecuador to Spain and minutes later being taken to a house where he met with Arturo Beltran Leyva.

Beltran Leyva was once a top lieutenant for the Sinaloa drug cartel, led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. However, he split from the cartel shortly after his brother was arrested in 2008, setting off a bloody battle between the former allies.

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