A short backstory of the CJNG’s arrival in South America

Latin America World

“MX” for Borderland Beat

Passports of the Italian and three Mexican nationals working for the CJNG/Cuinis in Argentina

Mexican drug lord Gerardo González Valencia did not choose a good time to settle with his family in Argentina. He arrived in 2009, a year after three pharmaceutical businessmen, Sebastián Forza, Damián Ferrón, and Leopoldo Bina, were kidnapped and killed in an apparent ephedrine dispute that shocked Argentina.
Through its local partners, the Sinaloa Cartel reportedly smuggled 50 tons of that drug’s chemical precursor to Argentina between 2004 and 2008. In those four years, the Sinaloa Cartel made approximately US$105 million.
However, their gains were cut short after former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner launched an anti-crime and drug campaign following the triple murder. Consequently, it was difficult for any Mexican citizen who had a luxurious lifestyle to go unnoticed in Argentina.

Arrival of the CJNG in Argentina
The presence in Argentina of the González Valencia clan, relatives of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) leader Nemesio Oseguera Cervantes (“El Mencho”), was uncovered on March 10, 2009, when three emissaries of Gerardo were involved in a car accident in Puerto Madero. The three Mexicans threatened the police officers who arrived at the scene when they asked them for the vehicle’s paperwork. Gerardo’s envoys told them they would be dead if this incident had occurred in Mexico.
The police did not press charges but took note of their license plates before they left. Upon further investigation, they discovered that the vehicle was owned by Marcelo Arias, an Argentinian strawperson who worked for Gerardo. As published by Borderland Beat, Arias met Gerardo and others when he was a taxi driver in Buenos Aires. The three Mexicans were living in Torres Le Parc Puerto Madero, an expensive apartment tower in Buenos Aires.
Arias was a strawperson for Gerardo and agreed to add his legal address to Círculo Internacional S.A., one of the entities controlled by the CJNG in Argentina. Interestingly, the police discovered that the three Mexicans who had threatened them were part of the company too. An additional Meixcan national was who was not with them that day was also identified as a shareholder. Their names were Francisco Marzio Medina González, Julio César Alegre Ortega, Pedro Merced Medina Lizárraga and Rodrigo Lepe Uribe. Gerardo himself formally joined the company as a director on June 17, 2011.
Investigation begins in Argentina
With this information, judge Néstor Barral and prosecutor Sebastián Basso opened a formal investigation against Gerardo and the CJNG in Argentina. One of the first things they did was send an inquiry to Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office to see if Gerardo and the other Mexicans had outstanding charges in Mexico. However, Mexican authorities told them they had never heard of them.
While El Mencho continued to rise in the worldwide drug trade, his brother-in-law Gerardo opened a convenience store in Buenos Aires. The store was known as “Corner”. In addition to Arias, Gerardo hired Argentine national Óscar Calvete and the Italian national Giuliano Gasparotto, who would later go on to manage his boutique hotel Hotelito Desconocido in Jalisco, Mexico. Argentine officials confirmed that Gerardo invested US$1.8 million in the convenience store.
Back in Mexico, authorities uncovered information about Gerardo and his criminal group in 2014. In a courtroom in Zapopan, Jalisco, a lady identified as María Teresa was sentenced to 15 years for organized crime involvement. She was a former police officer from Ciudad Guzmán. In her court files, the judges identified Gerardo a boss of Los Cuinis, the money laundering branch of the cartel. But by the time Argentine officials received such information, Gerardo had fled to Uruguay.
Relocation to Uruguay and capture
In Uruguay, however, Gerardo’s situation wasn’t any better. After living a few years in anonymity, Judge Adriana de Los Santos issued a warrant for his capture. He was wanted for money laundering activities in Montevideo and Punta del Este.

Gerardo managed several properties there through an offshore company discovered through the Panama Papers. Captured in 2016, he was imprisoned in one of Uruguay’s top-security facilities.

Ongoing trial
While Gerardo awaits his extradition to the United States, Argentine authorities are fighting with Uruguay to see who gets to keep his assets. In the U.S., several properties and members of the CJNG are sanctioned under the Kingpin Act. This sanction freezes all their U.S.-based assets and prohibits U.S. citizens/companies from engaging in business activities with them.
Judge Barral will send the Argentines who helped Los Cuinis to trial in the next few days. They hope that Mexican authorities help them find the four Mexican nationals for whom they issued an arrest warrant. They haven’t been seen in Argentina since then.
SourceMilenio (published 12 March 2020)

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