Colombia seizes assets linked to Mexican kingpin

AP News
Posted: Sep 21, 2011 3:13 PM
Colombia seizes assets linked to Mexican kingpin

Colombian police have seized 301 properties, including houses, vehicles and estates, that belonged to alleged front men for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the head of Mexico's powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, police said Wednesday.

About 500 officers participated in the operation in the capital of Bogota and five other districts of Colombia and seized about $250 million in assets, said Gen. Carlos Mena of Colombia's investigations police.

Mena said officers targeted members of the Cifuentes Villa gang, which has worked with Guzman to transport cocaine and launder money. He said that the property seized Tuesday will be sold or otherwise used to help victims of Colombia's internal conflicts and people affected by last year's intense rains.

Mena said police in Mexico, Panama and Ecuador also launched operations targeting property belonging to the Mexican kingpin, but gave no details.

Authorities in Colombia, Mexico and the United States have been collaborating this year to target property belonging to drug gang members. In May, Colombian authorities seized 135 properties, including front companies, of the Cifuentes Villa gang, Mena said.

Colombian police official Jorge Milton said the gang sprang from the Cifuentes Villa family, which joined Guzman to coordinate illegal shipments through import companies around the Western Hemisphere.

Authorities estimate the 56-year-old Guzman has a fortune worth more than $1 billion. The U.S. State Department has offered a reward of $5 million for information leading to his capture.