The Colombian financial market became a personal laundering money operation for the ubiquitous Mexican drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera and for other criminal organizations, according to a joint Colombian and U.S. investigation.
The Sinaloa Cartel, the Venezuelan Soles Cartel, and the Envigado Office, a drug trafficking organization originally formed as an enforcement group by Pablo Escobar, legalized millions of dollars through eleven Colombian brokerage firms that control nearly half of the country's stock market, according to Simón Gaviria, a congressman who is familiar with the probe.
"More than $10 billion were laundered for drug dealers and FARC by these businesses," Gaviria, the son of former Colombian president César Gaviria, said during a congressional hearing.
Chapo Guzmán's role was discovered as part of a larger investigation into Interbolsa, a Colombian brokerage firm that was looked at by the government last November following allegations of fraud, market manipulation, and widespread corruption.
One of the links between Interbolsa and the Sinaloa Cartel is Carlos Leyton Sinisterra, a Colombian trader who worked for Intervalores, one of Interbolsa's brokerage firms. From 2007 to 2008, Leyton Sinisterra allegedly received $6.7 million from Mexican and U.S. bank accounts, and laundered the money through fictitious accounts and invoices, according to court records.
Leyton Sinisterra, who was captured last November, worked alongside Rocío Castellanos, another possible link to El Chapo's organization. Castellanos was the president of Intervalores and she had shares in the company, according to her former husband. She would later have financial dealings with Multibank, a Panamanian institution that Gaviria told Mexican magazine Proceso, could be an important connection for the Sinaloa Cartel's money laundering operations.
Rodrigo Jaramillo, Interbolsa's former president, has denied the accusations, arguing that Intervalores was never a part of Interbolsa, and that any kind of suspicious activity would have been reported.
The Colombian Police's Directorate of Criminal Investigation and Interpol, which is the group in charge of the investigation, and the District Attorney's Office were not available for comment.
The Sinaloa Cartel's influence and operations in Colombia have increased significantly in recent years. El Chapo's organization invested heavily in Colombian properties as it expanded its ties with criminal groups such as FARC and Los Rastrojos.