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FBI investigation shows druglord “El Chapo” sought alliance with powerful Italian organized crime syndicate

December 9, 2015  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
FBI investigation shows druglord “El Chapo” sought alliance with powerful Italian organized crime syndicate

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Rafael Humberto Celaya Valenzuela, the last of four members of a Sinaloa cartel cell, was sentenced to 17 years in prison for his role in a drug network that trafficked massive quantities of cocaine into the United States and Europe.

Celaya was given a 17 year prison sentence for attempting to smuggle over a ton of cocaine into the U.S. in New Hampshire Federal District Court on Monday. He is the last defendant arrested to be sentenced, closing the case that involved Sinaloa druglord Chapo Guzman and his cousin, Manuel Gutierrez Guzman, who received a 16 year prison sentence in August.

According to Reuters, Celaya was politically involved with the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in Mexico and had aspirations for a federal Congress seat in 2012 in the state of Sonora but the party rejected his candidacy, according to documents from Mexico’s Electoral Tribunal. This report was also confirmed by the president’s office late on Monday.

The dismantling of the transnational drug smuggling operation stemmed from an undercover FBI investigation targeting the Sinaloa cartel dubbed “Operation Dark Water” for the name of the town in Mexico – Agua Prieta – where the probe originated in 2009.

FBI agents told Reuters in an interview that informants and undercover operatives in the case were able to get unprecedented access to “Chapo” Guzman by making contact with his first cousin by holding out an a golden opportunity to establish a drug trafficking network to Europe.

The operation led to the 2012 arrests of Celaya, Gutierrez Guzman and other suspects in Spain, where the cartel had facilitated a multimillion-dollar shipment of over 760 pounds (345 kg) of cocaine.


Rafael Humberto Celaya Valenzuela with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto

The investigation would provide further insight into the ambitious nature of El Chapo, which has been well documented over the years.

Secret video and audio played during trial,  showed Celaya conspiring with fellow cartel members and undercover FBI agents, who passed themselves off as members of the N’Drangheta mafia to further expand the cartel’s cocaine empire into the United States and Europe.

While the Mexican cartels control much of the U.S. drug market, Colombian cartels have long been dominant in Europe, working with the ‘Ndrangheta syndicate, who controls 80% of the cocaine trade throughout continent.

The FBI probe began with an informant who offered to set up the Sinaloa cartel with major players with the Italian organized crime group, claiming they held influence at U.S. and Spanish ports. However, the representatives of the criminal group were actually FBI agents.

“We said we had people in the U.S. and in Europe and that we had influence in a port in Spain and from there it really just took off,” said an FBI agent who declined to be named because he is now undercover in a separate investigation.

According to Thompson and Reuters, Guzman was so interested in the offer that he invited the FBI informant to meet with him personally at his hideout in the mountains of Sinaloa in 2010, the FBI agents said.


For several days the meeting was moved between various hotels. But then the informant was summoned to a small aircraft, where he was flown into the mountainous regions, where they landed on a clandestine airstrip carved into a field.

The FBI agent who helped plant the informant described the source’s meeting with El Chapo. “He said it was scary, He said he was very respectful and had very good manners. Guzman fed him and met with him for hours,” said the FBI agent who asked to remain anonymous.

Undercover agents would meet more than a dozen times with cartel members abroad and in the United States, including meetings in New Hampshire.

During one of those meetings, Celaya was caught on a wiretap directly presenting himself as a financial planner working for Guzman and the cartel, who was adept at setting up shell companies and laundering illicit proceeds, prosecutors said.

Since the arrests, Europol has not detected any increased presence of the Sinaloa cartel, despite the fact that other Mexican cartels have established alliances with European organized crime syndicates, agency spokeswoman Veronica Sanchez said,.

The consumption of cocaine has doubled in Europe in the past ten years, generating revenues of up to $34 billion dollars a year, which is comparable to the declining $37 billion U.S. market, according to the UN.

According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, (COHA) a U.S. nonprofit, the increase in demand has seen alliances between Italy’s powerful ‘Ndrangheta families and Mexican cartels expand. However, those links have been mainly with the Sinaloa’s rivals – the Gulf Cartel and more specifically Los Zetas . A fact that had the Sinaloa cartel playing catch up.


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