Army troops seized $15.3 million in cash in Tijuana, a border city in northwestern Mexico, that apparently belonged to the Sinaloa cartel, marking the second-largest seizure of money since President Felipe Calderon took office in 2006, but no arrests were made, the Defense Secretariat and the Attorney General’s Office said in a joint statement on Tuesday.
The cash was found on Nov. 18 inside a vehicle parked in the Cumbres de Juarez section of Tijuana, located near San Diego, California, during a “surprise land reconnaissance” operation, the statement said.
The money, which was seized “without any shots being fired,” was being taken to a “house used by members of the ‘Guzman Loera’ criminal organization as a financial operations center,” the statement said.
Army troops seized $26.2 million on Sept. 14, 2008, in Culiacan, the capital of the northwestern state of Sinaloa, the statement said.
Three packages containing cocaine, two rifles, two handguns and jewelry were also seized as part of “Operation Zorro,” which began in July in the northern states of Sonora, Baja California and Baja California Sur.
The Sinaloa organization is the oldest cartel in Mexico and is led by Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, who was arrested in Guatemala in 1993 and pulled off a Hollywood-style jailbreak when he escaped from the Puente Grande maximum-security prison in the western state of Jalisco on Jan. 19, 2001.
Guzman, considered extremely violent, is one of the most-wanted criminals in Mexico and the United States, where the Drug Enforcement Administration has offered a reward of $5 million for him.
Forbes magazine estimates that Guzman has a fortune of more than $1 billion, making him one of the richest people in the world.
The Sinaloa cartel, according to Mexican journalist Jose Reveles, controls at least 3,500 companies around the world.