World’s Most Renowned Cartel Boss Has Global Ambitions With Italian Mafia

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JP Carroll National Security & Foreign Affairs Reporter
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A Mexican gangster who is a member of the notorious Sinaloa Cartel received a 17 year sentence Monday for his role in attempting to smuggle a ton of cocaine into the U.S. through Europe. Raul Humberto Celaya Valenzuela received a prison sentence of 17 years for his role in the attempted cocaine smuggling.

This historic drug bust demonstrates the increasingly global reach of “El Chapo’s” Sinaloa Cartel. The investigation lasted for years (2009-2012) and spanned the globe, as investigators pursued the case from Mexico to the US and finally to Spain where multiple cartel associates were arrested.

The cocaine trade in Europe is worth $33 billion which is comparable to the $37 billion US market. The Mexican Zetas and Gulf Cartels have developed strong links with the Italian Mafia, the Sinaloa Cartel is playing catch up.

Celaya Valenzuela was the money man who served as the representative of the cartel’s international business interest and led the criminal organization’s money laundering efforts through shell corporations. The international financier has ties to Mexico’s ruling PRI party and even tried to be the party’s candidate in a 2012 congressional race but was rejected by the party due to his then-alleged, now-confirmed links to the drug trade. Celaya Valenzuelas is one of four participants in the failed smuggling attempt but he is one of eight individuals including Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera that was named for drug conspiracy charges in June 2011 by a District of New Hampshire grand jury. In July 2012, the grand Jury indicted Celaya Valenzuela and he was arrested in August of that year.

The investigation involved FBI surveillance including audio and video. Undercover FBI agents participated in meetings that took place in New Hampshire and in Spain. The cocaine in question reached a European port and from there had it not been for the FBI investigation, it was going to be sold throughout Europe and the US.

Boston Police and Spanish National Police were also closely involved with and participated in the FBI-led investigation. Once Celaya Valenzuela has completed his sentence, he will be deported from the US because of his crimes.

The Sinaloa Cartel which is responsible for the failed cocaine smuggling attempt is led by the notorious fugitive drug lord known as “El Chapo” which translates to “Shorty”. “El Chapo” gained greater notoriety this summer when he broke out of jail through an underground tunnel by motorcycle in July 2015.

He escaped Mexican prison in 2001 but was captured by the authorities in February 2014. Upon his capture, US authorities wanted “El Chapo” extradited to the US to stand trial but their Mexican counterparts refused and preferred that he stand trial and be incarcerated in Mexico. “El Chapo” has been featured both in Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful people as well as its list of billionaires.

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