Ericson Vargas Cardona, alias 'Sebastián' (Photo: Diario ADN)

The US government has placed Colombia’s “Oficina de Envigado” drug cartel on one of its harshest lists of banned organizations local media reported on Thursday.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)  of the United States Department of the Treasury has included in the Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers list (SDNT), which means that any person or business associating with Oficina could face fines or prison.

“Today’s actions allows additional sanctions that target individuals and entities that supported the illegal activities of Oficina de Envigado.”

“[When a group is added to the SDNT] all the property and assets of the Bureau based in the United States or in control of U.S. citizens and control entities are frozen, and U.S. citizens are prohibited from engaging in transactions with this criminal organization,” said the State Department on their webpage.

PROFILE: Oficina de Envigado

“Today’s actions allows additional sanctions that target individuals and entities that supported the illegal activities of Oficina de Envigado,” said the same source.

Significant role in international trafficking

It also means the assets of any members of this organization who reside in the US are frozen, and likewise prevents any negotiations between related companies or businesses in Colombia, reported Medellin’s El Colombiano newspaper.

The State Department added the organization Oficina de Envigado to the SDNT because they consider the group as an organization with “a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.”

MORE: US fails to intercept 80% of drugs sent from Colombia: General

“The office”

Historically, Oficina descended from the Medellin Cartel, and contains members who were close to infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar, but now owing to their growing size and relations with members of the prominent Sinaloa Cartel, they are performing operations on an international scale, according to El Colombiano.

“In addition to their direct involvement in the narcotics trade, Oficina de Envigado is complicit in a range of illicit activities, including money laundering, extortion and murder for hire,” Director of OFAC, Adam Szubin said quoted by El Colombiano.

“These are more secondary activities than simply operations with groups of international traffickers.”

Harsh penalties for association

The penalties for violating the SNDT list and negotiating with members of Oficina de Envigado range from fines up to 1.075 million per violation to severe criminal penalties. Punishment for corporate executives also includes up to 30 years in prison in the US and a fine of up to 5 million.

In addition to these fines, the company can also be charged 10 million for dealing with Oficina de Envigado.

Other individuals could face up to 10 years in prison as well as fines in agreement with the US Code Title 18 for criminal violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (1999).


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