US sees links between Belize and Mexican drug cartel

BELMOPAN, Belize, Tuesday, September 4, 2012 – The United States government has targeted three men and five companies in Belize under the Kingpin Act, which means the US government can freeze their assets and ban citizens of the US from doing business with them.

The US Treasury Department has designated John Zabaneh, his nephew Dion Zabaneh and their associate Daniel Moreno of using five Belize-based businesses to support Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa cartel as it smuggles drugs north from Colombia.

The Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced it froze the assets of the Belize residents and designated as off-limits a number of companies either owned or controlled by Moreno or John Zabaneh, including a building contractor, a resort and marina company, a pharmaceutical firm, a supermarket company, and a banana farm called Mayan King Ltd.

Treasury officials say the Belizeans are associates of billionaire fugitive Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman, leader of the most powerful organized crime group in Mexico and perhaps the most powerful narcotics ring in the world.

“John Zabaneh’s drug trafficking activities and his organization’s ties to Colombian sources of supply and Mexican buyers make him a critical figure in the narcotics trade,” Adam  Szubin, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control, said in a statement.

“By designating Zabaneh, OFAC is disrupting those activities and continuing its efforts, alongside those of our law enforcement partners, to expose operatives of Chapo Guzman and the Sinaloa Cartel, including their businesses.”

The Kingpin Act, which was signed in to law by President Clinton in 1999. Since then, US officials have designated more than 1,100 businesses and individuals linked to 97 drug kingpins, according to government figures.

Last September, Belize was added to a US “blacklist” of 22 nations after numerous recent drug and weapons seizures on the Mexican side of the Mexico-Belize border, as well as for evidence of the presence of Mexican cartels including the Zeta gang, the ruthless rival to the Sinaloa cartel. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)