A drug cartel based in Mexico has linked up with a Chinese-Filipino syndicate to traffic shabu in the Philippines, police authorities said on Thursday.
The presence of the Sinaloa cartel in the country was confirmed after police and anti-narcotics agents raided a ranch in Lipa City on Wednesday.
A Filipino-Chinese and two Filipinos were arrested, and the raiders seized 84 kilograms (185 pounds) of methamphetamine hydrochloride, popularly known as shabu, as well as two firearms.
The shabu, which has a street value of at least P420 million, was packed in 84 plastic sachets hidden inside four travelling bags.
The actual members of the Mexican cartel were not there during the raid, Sr. Supt. Bartolome Tobias, chief of the Philippine National Police’s (PNP’s) Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (AIDSOTF), said at a press conference on Thursday at
Camp Crame, the PNP headquarters.
“We have previously had reports that the Mexicans are here and . . . this is the first time we have confirmed that indeed, the Mexicans are already here,” Tobias said.
He did not say how they knew the Sinaloa cartel was involved.
He said a Filipino-American named Gary Torres and two Mexicans known as “Jaime” and “Joey” were being sought in connection with the seized drugs.
It was not clear why the Mexican cartel would have entered the Philippines. The PNP chief, Director General Alan Purisima, said the country’s strategic location and the difficulty of guarding the archipelago’s maritime borders made it easy to infiltrate.
The Mexican embassy in the Philippines declined to comment.
The Sinaloa cartel is reputed to be the largest source of illegal drugs to the United States.
Its main leader, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001. He is now America’s most wanted drug trafficker, as well as being considered by Forbes as the most powerful criminal on the planet.
More than 77,000 people have been killed in Mexico in connection with organized crime since then-president Felipe Calderon launched a nationwide war against the cartels after taking office in 2006.
“Before, our problem came from Filipino-Chinese and West African drug syndicates.
Now I can confirm that the Mexican Sinaloa drug syndicate has penetrated us,” Director General Arturo Cacdac Jr., chief of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), said.
Cacdac said the cartel was “coordinating with a local drug group, and this operation in Batangas is the first time that we have encountered them.”
The cartel deals mainly in cocaine and heroin, but it chose shabu because it is more lucrative and easier to sell in the Philippines, he said.
Purisima said investigators want to find out how the Sinaloa made inroads in the Philippine drug market and how long it has been operating here.
Authorities said the arrested Filipino-Chinese, Garry Tan alias Chua is a big drug trafficker who works with Torres, who has a US passport.
Torres is a member of the Sinaloa and is in charge with smuggling illegal drugs into the country, Tobias said.
“An AIDSOTF undercover operative conducted an intensified case build-up and properly identified the duo with their Mexican cohorts and located the place they used as storage facility for illegal drugs,” Tobias said.
The storage facility was located inside the Lipa City ranch said to be owned by the Leviste family.
Arrested with Tan were Filipinos Argay Argenos Ledesma and Rochelle Argenos Mercado.