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US places sanctions on relatives of Mexican drug lord

Wednesday, July 25, 2012    

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MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) — The US Treasury Department announced yesterday it has imposed sanctions on relatives of Sinaloa cartel drug lord Juan Jose Esparragoza who allegedly run gas stations, a shopping mall, a housing development and an industrial park in Mexico that invested or laundered drug money.

Six of the people named are wives or children of Esparragoza, alias "El Azul" or "The Blue One." The department said he had at least two wives.

Nine companies and four other individuals were also been named under the US Drug Kingpin Act.

The measure prohibits people in the US from doing business with named people, whose US assets are also frozen.

The department called Esparragoza a "godfather of Mexican narcotics" and said he had "kept a low profile in hopes of avoiding scrutiny."

Esparragoza himself was already named on the list.

The sales manager for the housing development mentioned in the Treasury Department report, Provenza Residencial, denied that the business had any links to Esparragoza or his family.

"This is a myth that our competitors have come up with," sales manager Jorge Romero said. "The owners (of the development) are two companies that have got anything to do with this."

Romero said the accusations may have arisen because part of the land where the development was built may have once been owned by Esparragoza.

Romero said Mexican investigators had looked into the project when the two companies began building it in the mid-2000s. "We opened up everything ... and they didn't find anything at all," Romero said.

Mexican investigators have expressed some frustration about US public announcements of kingpin designations, because US officials usually do not provide the evidence Mexican prosecutors need to bring charges against the suspected cartel associates in Mexican courts.

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