Mexican federal police and military units arrested Juan Manuel Álvarez Inzunza, aka “King Midas,” the alleged top money-launderer for the Sinaloa cartel of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, on Sunday in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.
Álvarez Inzunza, who was on vacation in Oaxaca when he was captured without violence, was arrested on a provisional extradition warrant issued by the US, where he has been charged with money-laundering.
Álvarez Inzunza “is linked with an international money-laundering network [operating] from cities like Tijuana, Culiacán, or Guadalajara and linked with other nations, like Colombia, Panama, and the United States,” the Mexican federal police said in a twitter post announcing the capture.
The 34-year-old is suspected of operating money exchanges and cover businesses that laundered $300 million to $400 million a year for the Sinaloa cartel, operating primarily out of Sinaloa and Jalisco states on Mexico’s west coast, processing a total of around $4 billion over the last decade.
Álavarez Inzunza usually confined himself to his areas of operations in Sinaloa and Jalisco, but in recent days he had “relaxed his circle of security” in order to take a vacation in the capital city of Oaxaca state. This, according to El País, facilitated Mexican federal forces’ efforts to capture him.
He was transferred from Oaxaca to Mexico City, where he is under the supervision of the Mexican attorney general office’s organized-crime division. Based on the warrant issued by a US federal court, Álvarez Inzunza faces extradition.
Álvarez Inzunza’s arrest is the latest in a series of blows to the Sinaloa cartel’s ranks.
The organization’s nominal leader, “El Chapo” Guzmán, was recaptured in early January after six months on the run, and he too awaits likely extradition to the US. (How long his extradition will take, though, is unclear.)
At the end of January, 24 people suspected of being high-level Sinaloa cartel members werearrested in a covert US-Mexico law-enforcement operation on the Arizona border.
On February 9, Guadalupe Fernández Valencia, a 55-year-old woman suspected of being one of the Sinaloa cartel’s top money managers, was arrested on the cartel’s home turf of Culiacán in Sinaloa state. She had been designated a “Foreign Narcotics Kingpin” by the US Treasury Department.
Álvarez Inzunza’s arrest also came just a day after police in Sonora state, which borders the US,captured Raul Beltran Quintero, the Sinaloa cartel’s boss in the state, along with eight suspected members of the organization. They were detained with eight handguns, ammunition, and two vehicles that had been stolen in the US.
While the Sinaloa cartel is generally regarded as the most powerful criminal organization in the Western Hemisphere, if not the world, it is believed to operate as a group of aligned factions, rather than a centralized, hierarchical organization.
This structure — along with the fact that two other top leaders, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada and Juan José Esparragoza Moreno, aka “El Azul,” remain free — make it hard to judge just how much damage the capture of any one person does to the Sinaloa cartel as a whole.
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