Where the Chemical Precursor Suppliers to Sinaloa Cartel and CJNG Come from?

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An InSight Crime publication reveals the complex international network supplying chemical precursors for the production of synthetic drugs like methamphetamines and fentanyl.

In recent years, China has emerged as a crucial ally for Mexican cartels by supplying essential chemical precursors for methamphetamine and fentanyl production, but it is not alone. This complex network of shipments used by groups like the Sinaloa Cartel and the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) has involved other countries.

According to the publication “Beyond China: How Other Countries Provide Precursor Chemicals to Mexico,” the trafficking of chemical precursors to Mexico has become a global phenomenon involving a sophisticated network of supplier countries, each with its own dynamics and regulations.

The publication discusses the case of Javier Algredo Vázquez, a character who operated as an intermediary within an extensive network of precursor traffickers.

Javier, along with his brother Carlos, managed front companies in New York and Ciudad Nezahualcóyotl, through which they acquired and distributed large volumes of essential chemicals for methamphetamine and fentanyl production.

These companies maintained commercial relationships with suppliers in China, India, Germany, and Turkey, allowing the Algredo brothers to move tons of chemicals with seemingly legitimate documentation.

Javier was arrested in September 2021 while attempting to recover chemicals confiscated by U.S. authorities. Although his activities appeared to follow international standards and current regulations, investigations revealed his involvement in supplying precursors for synthetic drug production.

In July 2023, he was sentenced for drug trafficking, conspiracy to manufacture illicit substances, and money laundering, receiving an 18-and-a-half-year sentence in a federal prison.

The case of Javier Algredo Vázquez highlights the intricate and global supply network of chemical precursors for synthetic drug production in Mexico.

China is the hub of global chemical production, being the main supplier of chemical precursors necessary for the production of fentanyl and methamphetamine for Mexican cartels, despite Beijing’s efforts to implement stricter restrictions on certain chemicals over the last decade.

Mexican criminal networks continue to source chemical precursors from China using sophisticated methods to evade detection, such as using third countries as transit points. The country has numerous intermediaries and shell companies that facilitate illegal exports.

However, when regulations tighten in one country, as has happened with methamphetamine and fentanyl precursors in Mexico and China, criminal networks manage to adapt by finding new substances and suppliers in countries with less regulatory control, allowing them to diversify trafficking routes to India, Germany, Turkey, and Guatemala.

India has emerged as a key supplier of chemical precursors due to its permissive regulations and vast chemical industry. Products like oxalic acid, used in methamphetamine production, are exported from India to Mexico on a large scale.

India’s chemical industry, which represents a significant part of the country’s GDP, has fewer controls over the production and marketing of chemical precursors compared to China, the United States, and Mexico.

Companies in Punjab and other industrial centers regularly send these products to Mexico through key ports like Mundra and Bombay, according to InSight Crime data.

The limited capabilities of Indian authorities to identify and control these exports add another layer of complexity to the fight against chemical precursor trafficking.

Germany is another important supplier of chemicals, leveraging its robust industry and regulatory frameworks that, while strict, allow certain loopholes in surveillance. Substances like sodium carbonate and hypophosphorous acid, which can be diverted to produce synthetic drugs, are exported to Mexico from German ports like Hamburg and Bremerhaven.

Although Germany has rigorous laws regarding the production and marketing of chemical precursors, voluntary surveillance and less strict regulations for some substances make the country an attractive target for criminal networks. The flow of chemicals is facilitated by transnational companies and efficient logistical infrastructure, which also present control challenges at the ports of departure, the publication notes.

The ports of Bremerhaven and Hamburg are common exit points for shipments of these precursors to Mexico. The efficient logistical infrastructure and connection with other European nations facilitate the transport of these substances. However, the low visibility and inspection rates of containers at German ports present additional challenges for detection.

Furthermore, Germany serves as a transit country. Some chemical precursors sent from China first pass through Germany before reaching their final destination in Mexico, using longer routes to evade detection by Mexican authorities. This strategic use of Germany as an intermediate point adds another layer of complexity to the challenge of controlling global chemical precursor trafficking.

Turkey also plays a significant role in supplying chemical precursors. Turkish companies export products like acetic acid, used in the production of synthetic drugs. Regulations in Turkey are less strict, facilitating the trade of these products to Mexican lands.

Turkey’s geopolitical context, situated between Europe and Asia, makes it a strategic point for the diversion of chemicals. Shipments from Turkish ports take advantage of these lax regulations and logistical facilities, becoming a vital part of the supply chain.

Turkey’s infrastructure and international connections facilitate the movement of these substances, making the country an important link in the supply chain.

In Central America, Guatemala stands out as an important transit point for chemical precursors diverted to Mexico. Although not a major producer of these substances, the country plays a crucial role for Mexican drug traffickers.

The most prominent case occurred in 2012 when Guatemalan authorities dismantled a network linked to the Sinaloa Cartel that used the country for the transit of methamphetamine precursors. This involved the capture of Ramón Antonio Yáñez and the seizure of nearly a hundred barrels of chemical substances. Despite these efforts, criminal networks continue to take advantage of weaknesses in the country’s surveillance and regulation.

Seizures of chemical precursors in Guatemala have increased from 390 tons in 2012 to 1,409 tons in 2021, reflecting the persistence of the problem. Additionally, Guatemalan regulations do not include controls for certain fentanyl and methamphetamine precursors that are strictly regulated in Mexico, facilitating their diversion.

The country has more than 830 companies licensed to import and distribute chemical precursors, supervised by the Ministry of Health. However, institutional capacities are limited.

USA: A Dual Role

The InSight Crime investigation also points out that the United States plays a dual role as both a producer and a transit country for chemical precursors. Although it has strict regulations under the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the large volume of chemicals traded and the complexity in the application of regulations allow some shipments to be diverted for illicit purposes.

Companies in various states such as Illinois, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Indiana export precursors and other chemical substances to Mexico via various routes. A commonly used method is “in-bond” shipments, where products first pass through U.S. ports before being re-exported to Mexico, thus reducing scrutiny during their transit.

In practice, these complexities allow multiple companies to supply chemical precursors to Mexican criminal networks. Among the substances exported are methamphetamine precursors, such as derivatives of benzaldehyde and nitropropane.

pasoSource: Infobae