Mexican drug cartel working with Chinese groups

Report by Maan Macapagal, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 27 2013 08:32 PM | Updated as of Dec 30 2013 04:14 PM

MANILA - Philippine authorities warned that a Mexican drug cartel is working with Chinese drug lords to establish a foothold in the Philippines.

This, amid an 800 percent increase in the volume of seized narcotics this year compared to 2012.

The Philippine National Police and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency earlier confirmed that the Sinaloa drug cartel, one of the most feared and most powerful drug cartels in the world, was trying to establish operations in the Philippines.

It said the discovery of a shabu storage facility at a farm in Lipa, Batangas and the subsequent arrests of three suspected drug traffickers confirmed the entry of the cartel. The three were identified as Argay Argenos, Rochelle Argenos and David Tan.

Senior Superintendent Bartolome Tobias, Philippine National Police - Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (PNP-AIDSOTF) chief, said Tan was a big-time drug trafficker operating in Metro Manila and nearby regions.

"Reports further disclosed Tan worked with a certain Jorge Torres, a Filipino American with a US passport. Both are accordingly affiliated with the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel," he said.

Benedicto Orense, property administrator of LPL Ranch, said he was surprised when policemen and anti-narcotics operatives raided the one-hectare farm that was leased to Torres.

Orense said Torres had leased a hectare of the ranch for 14,000 pesos a month, and turned it into a game fowl farm. He said Torres is a businessman and known cock breeder in the Philippines.

The contract of lease identifies LBJ Development Corporation as the lessor of the property. Torres personally signed the contract, good for one year.

Orense said that under the contract, their tenants cannot conduct illegal activities. He said property owners can also make unannounced inspections.

The PNP-AIDSOTF, meanwhile, said Torres' cockbreeding activities could be a front for the drug operation.

Roque Merdeguia, head of the legal and investigation division of the PNP-AIDSOTF, said an AIDSOTF agent was able to work as Torres' driver after authorities were tipped off about the alleged narcotics operation in the farm.

The AIDSOTF said that aside from Torres, two other Mexicans also frequented the farm.

"Ayon sa ating foreign counterpart, connected sila sa Sinaloa drug cartel, the most powerful drug organization sa Mexico region at US. Kilala ang Sinaloa sa mga pagpatay," Merdeguia said.

Authorities said they also received information that Chinese drug lords and the Mexican cartel have joined forces.

"This includes finances and sharing of technology," Merdeguia said.

The AIDSOTF said the cartel is eyeing the Philippines as a potential market as well as a transshipment point for drugs in Asia.

Merdeguia said among the factors being considered by the cartel is the Philippines' strategic location, lack of death penalty and corruption.

"Nag-e-establish na sila ng merkado at contact dito," he said.

Authorities are still investigating how the cartel was able to ship in 84 kilos of shabu with a street value of over P420 million.

The AIDSOTF also warned that the volume of seized narcotics this year increased 800%, from an estimated 100 kilograms in 2012 to an estimated 800 kilograms this year.

Leviste not involved

Meanwhile, the camp of former Batangas governor Antonio Leviste washed their hands of the illegal drug operations of the Sinaloa cartel.

Leviste said his twin, Conrad, owns LPL Ranch. He also noted that many cock breeders have leased portions of the more than 100-hectare property to breed game fowls.

Some of the prominent personalities that have houses inside the ranch are Batangas Governor Vilma Santos Recto and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.

The Department of Justice is set to summon Leviste to explain how Torres and his companions were able to set up a shabu facility in the farm.