Latin America & Caribbean

Colombia arrests key Mexico cartel 'money launderer'

Dolly Cifuentes
Image caption Dolly Cifuentes was arrested along with 10 pilots suspected of transporting cocaine

Police in Colombia have arrested a woman they say laundered money for Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel.

Dolly Cifuentes Villa was detained in a wealthy neighbourhood of Medellin.

Police say she took over the money-laundering business from her late brother Francisco, the personal pilot of the Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, who was killed in 1993.

The Sinaloa cartel smuggles large quantities of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico and on to the United States.

Head of the Colombian police Gen Oscar Naranjo said Ms Cifuentes, 47, was "a high-ranking link between Colombian and Mexican drug dealers".

According to the US Drug Enforcement Administration, which took part in the investigation leading to Ms Cifuentes' arrest, she managed 32 companies in Colombia and 17 abroad, including in Panama, Mexico, Brazil and the US.

Gen Naranjo said Ms Cifuentes also owned property in her hometown of Medellin, the Colombian capital, Bogota, and on the Rosario islands, off the Caribbean coast.

'Serious blow'

The police chief said her arrest would make it more difficult for the Sinaloa cartel to launder its multi-million dollar profits from the drugs trade.

Gen Naranjo said that after the killing of her brother Francisco in 2007, Dolly Cifuentes became a key associate of Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman, the most wanted drug dealer in Mexico.

Gen Naranjo said Ms Cifuentes ran a lucrative, if illegal, family business.

"She and her brothers Alexander and Jorge Milton, as well as her sister-in-law Maria Patricia Rodriguez took over control of Francisco's illegal businesses," he explained.

He said that after the killing of Francisco, the family owed "Shorty" Guzman a large consignment of cocaine.

Instead of selling their property to settle the debt, Francisco's widow and Dolly Cifuentes decided to instead use the properties to store cocaine and send it to Mexico, Gen Naranjo said.

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