Treasury Department Names Top Drug Kingpin

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In a publication dated this month, the US Treasury Department has identified Joaquin Guzman as the world’s most powerful drug kingpin. They released a diagram showing “El Chapo’s” relationship to others on their website. The nickname refers to his stature and means, “the short one” or “shorty”. At five feet, six inches, Guzman doesn’t cut an imposing figure, but it’s unlikely anyone calls him shorty to his face.

The declaration highlights Guzman’s status as an international drug lord. And he’s been around for more than ten years as the leader of the Sinola drug cartel. In fact, the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, signed into law in 1999, has his name mentioned even then. The Act allows, among other things, seizure of any assets tainted by his organization.

Perhaps as importantly as the announcement about Guzman, is that his known associates will also face the full weight of the law. Anyone convicted of being part of his organization would face the same penalties (ranging up to 10 million dollars in fines, along with prison time).

Why the Treasury? Because crime at this level is too much for the DEA or FBI to handle. The scale, and the amounts of money involved, have become a government-to-government concern. In the past year, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has acted against parts of the Guzman organization. The reach with this mechanism is much broader than money laundering in the US, because even foreign banks that hold money for Guzman may be liable to the act as “furthering the interests of a designated kingpin.”

The flow of drugs between producing and consuming nations now involves middlemen like Guzman, who are responsible for smuggling product into the US. But for drugs that can be manufactured in Mexico, his organization plays a more active role. For example, Mexican authorities report four seizures of a precursor chemical used to make methamphetamine at Mexican ports. The chemical is imported from China in an industrial scale – one such shipment was reported to be 32.6 metric tons.

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