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US prosecutors have announced charges against 24 people accused of operating a complex money laundering scheme connected to Chinese underground bankers and Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel.

According to the DEA, they “uncovered a partnership between Sinaloa Cartel associates and a Chinese criminal syndicate operating in Los Angeles and China to launder drug money.” The defendants face serious charges, including conspiracy to distribute cocaine and methamphetamine, along with money laundering offenses. The investigation led to the seizure of $5 million in narcotics proceeds, 137 kilograms of cocaine, 42 kilograms of methamphetamine, and 3,000 ecstasy pills.

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The charges stem from an investigation into how Chinese underground money exchanges helped the cartel launder $50 million in drug trafficking proceeds from the importation of fentanyl, cocaine, and methamphetamine between 2019 and 2023. These proceeds were then made accessible to cartel members in Mexico and other locations through a California-based network.

The DOJ explained that drug traffickers collaborated with these underground exchanges to exploit the high demand for US dollars among Chinese citizens. China restricts annual transfers to $50,000, prompting citizens to use informal channels to move money.

According to the DOJ, “The seller of US dollars provides identifying information for a bank account in China with instructions for the investor to deposit Chinese currency (renminbi) in that account. Once the owner of the account sees the deposit, an equivalent amount of US dollars is released to the buyer in the United States.”

In a statement, Anne Milgram, Drug Enforcement Administrator, said, “Relentless greed, the pursuit of money, is what drives the Mexican drug cartels that are responsible for the worst drug crisis in American history. She added that the “DEA’s top operational priority is to save American lives by defeating the cartels and those that support their operations.”


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