US slaps sanctions on suspected drug traffickers

By Dialogo
June 04, 2013

The United States designated six individuals and groups, including a prominent steroids dealer, for sanctions on May 31, freezing their US assets and barring trade with Americans.

The Knights Templar of Mexico, Colombia’s Los Urabeños and Los Cachiros of Honduras were singled out for sanctions under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, President Barack Obama wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

Three individuals were also listed: Luis Fernando Sanchez, the alleged leader of Mexico’s Tijuana cartel, steroid dealer Mihael Karner of Slovenia and Afghanistan’s Haji Kotwal Noorzai, who heads a drug trafficking network and has owned several heroin processing laboratories.

The designation means that any assets in the United States may be frozen and any Americans or US companies who try to conduct business with these individuals or groups may be subject to sanctions.

Kotwal, who has links to the Taliban, is based in Pakistan and has members of his network run the narcotics business, according to the US Treasury Department.

For the past 10 years, Karner has sold anabolic steroids worldwide and set up shell companies in tax havens to conceal the millions of dollars in drug profits.

Karner, his wife and his brother were indicted in Massachusetts federal court in 2010 on three counts of money laundering conspiracy and distributing and importing steroids.

He and his wife were arrested and detained in Austria in December 2010, but were released on bail in April 2012 while fighting extradition and then fled to their native Slovenia, which has no extradition treaty with the US, according to Treasury.

Sanchez’s Tijuana cartel delivers tons of cocaine and marijuana from northern Mexico to the United States. The gang is locked in a battle against the Sinaloa cartel for control of the territory.

On Mexico’s Pacific coast, the Knights Templar gang controls drug trafficking and other criminal activities such as kidnapping, extortion and robbery.

Its fighters offered to lay down their arms in exchange for new President Enrique Pena Nieto fulfilling his campaign promises, without indicating which ones.

The Cachiros, meanwhile, control 90 percent of clandestine airstrips in Honduras, where large quantities of drugs are transported from fields where they are grown in Colombia to the Mexican cartels, the US Treasury said.

The Urabeños are mainly comprised of paramilitaries and drug traffickers who also trade weapons in up to 24 of Colombia’s 32 provinces. It is aligned with the FARC, but has clashed with other local criminal gangs.