599 airplanes were seized from the Sinaloa Cartel in 9 years

According to reports from U.S. federal prosecutors, senior members of the Mexican Air Force have piloted some of these planes.

The airplanes leave from Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Durango, an area known as the Golden Triangle, and land in border states such as Baja California and Sonora. (Photo: Archive/El Universal)
English 03/05/2016 12:26 Laura Sánchez / corresponsal Actualizada 12:42
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If the Sinaloa cartel was an airline, it would be the largest in Mexico, because it has more airplanes than Aeroméxico, the largest airline in the country, with 127.

According to information obtained by EL UNIVERSAL via transparency, from 2006 to 2015 military authorities seized 599 airplanes from the Sinaloa Cartel that were used to move cocaine and marijuana throughout Latin America.

The cartel also operates 4,771 clandestine airstrips between 500 meters and one kilometer long, nestled in the heart of the mountains in Northern Mexico.

In an interview with Rolling Stone published in January, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, leader of the organization, said: "I supply more heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana than anyone else in the world. I have a fleet of submarines and aircraft."

In recent years, the most powerful drug cartel in the world has used ultralight aircraft that can carry more than 500 kilos of drugs piloted by senior members of the Mexican Air Force, according to reports from U.S. federal prosecutors.

Information given by Mexico's Ministry of National Defense (Sedena) to EL UNIVERSAL via the Transparency Law revealed that the airplanes leave from Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Durango, an area known as the Golden Triangle, and land in border states such as Baja California and Sonora.

During the administration of former President Felipe Calderón authorities seized 544 airplanes and 55 more in the last three years.

Moreover, 894 clandestine airstrips have been detected in Mexico during the current administration and 4,729 since 2006, in places such as Álamos, Caborca, Nogales and Santa Ana, in Sonora; Badiraguato, El Rosario and Culiacán, in Sinaloa; Guadalupe y Calvo and Guachochi in Chihuahua, Tamazula in Durango and Ensenada, Mexicali and Tijuana in Baja California.

Mexico's Service for the Administration and Property Disposal (SAE) said to EL UNIVERSAL that 105 seized airplanes were resold for 81.65 million pesos (US$4.65 million). The most common models were Cessna, Rockwell, Gulfstream, Piper and Beechcraft.

Jorge Arévalo Kessler is one of the pilots that worked for the Sinaloa Cartel. He was arrested in Mexico on April 7, 2008 and extradited to the United States in February 2010.

Arévalo was born in Germany and also had the Mexican nationality. In 1987 he graduated as a military pilot in Jalisco. Along with Alejandro Flores Cacho and Ricardo García Sánchez, pilots from Mexico's Military Aviation School, he admitted trafficking drugs for the cartel from South America since 2003 through the companies Mantenimiento, Aeronáutica, Transporte y Servicios Aéreos, based in Toluca; Aero Expreso Intercontinental based in Mexico City and Capacitación Aeroática Profesional, based in Cuenavaca.

Arévalo was sentenced in Texas to 11 years in prison, while Flores and García are still at large.


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