El Salvador charges alleged Texis Cartel leaders with tax evasion

By Dialogo
May 28, 2014

Salvadoran authorities have charged two alleged founders of the Texis Cartel with evading millions of dollars in taxes.
Authorities have charged prominent Salvadoran businessman Jose Adan Salazar, 62, with avoiding more than $800,000 in personal taxes and more than $80,000 in taxes from his hotel chain Hotesa. Salazar is also known as “Chepe Diablo.”
Prosecutors also allege that Juan Umaña, the mayor of the northwestern city of Metapan, allegedly failed to pay almost $70,000 in taxes. Authorities allege Umaña’s son, businessman Wilfredo Guerra, avoided paying $637,000 in personal taxes and $365,000 owed by his agribusiness company Gumarsal.
Salazar and Umaña have previously denied being involved with the Texis Cartel.
Prosecutors indicted the three men April 22, two weeks after the Specialized Organized Crime unit of the Attorney General's Office raided 17 businesses and properties owned or controlled by the men to search for evidence of tax evasion and money laundering. Investigators seized more than 70 boxes of documents in the raids.
Investigators raided five hotels, three accounting firms, a gas station and several residential properties, according to a government press release.
The purpose of the raids was to “obtain evidence against top leaders of the Texis Cartel,” said Public Safety Minister Ricardo Perdomo, according to press reports.

An international drug trafficking network

The Texis Cartel is an international drug trafficking organization that transports South American cocaine and other drugs through El Salvador along the so-called Northern Cocaine Route, also called El Caminito. Texis Cartel operatives deliver the drugs to Guatemala for eventual transport to the United States and other consumer countries. (Texis is an abbreviation for the Salvadoran city of Texistepeque.)
The Texis Cartel has been in operation since at least 2000. The organization allegedly transports drugs on behalf of various Mexican transnational criminal organizations, including the Sinaloa Cartel and Los Zetas, though it is not firmly allied with any single foreign drug trafficking group.
Unlike the Mexican cartels and other transnational criminal organizations, the Texis Cartel is not known for committing widespread acts of physical violence. Instead, it generally relies on bribery to protect its criminal operations.

Strong measures against the cartel’s financial structure

The tax evasion charges against Salazar, Umaña, and Guerra are part of a broader effort by Salvadoran authorities to attack the finances of the Texis Cartel and other drug trafficking groups, said José Luis Cisneros, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
“El Salvador has put in place a series of financial and political reforms designed to prevent crime,” Cisneros said. “The investigation of business people who are allegedly involved in tax evasion is a strong example of the policies which are in place in the fight against crime.”

Fighting the Texis Cartel

The tax evasion charges against Salazar, Umaña and Guerra are the latest strike against the Texis Cartel by Salvadoran authorities..
In July 2013 members of the Salvadoran police Elite Division Against Organized Crime (DECO) arrested another alleged founder of the Texis Cartel, cattle rancher Roberto "El Burro" Herrera, on charges of auto theft.
El Burro, who was president of the Cattle Association of Santa Ana, allegedly ran a gang that stole four or five vehicles a week and sold them in Guatemala.
Later, in September 2013, police arrested 16 alleged members of the Texis Cartel on charges of drug trafficking. Among those arrested were several cattle ranchers, according to press reports.
Julieta Pelcastre contributed to this article.