With cocaine going for more than $40,000 per kilogram in the Netherlands, cash inflow was high. Encrypted messages intercepted by police provide a glimpse of the group’s earnings.
While still in the Netherlands, Alverdi Benavides sent administrative lists to a Mexico-based figure Dutch prosecutors could not identify beyond his EncroChat username.
The list covered payments and drug sales from the previous three weeks, noting that Hoyos Bohorquez had received almost half a metric ton of cocaine valued at 24,000 euros per kilogram, and remitted roughly 8.5 million euros over the same time period.
According to Dutch investigators, Hoyos Bohorquez allegedly sent the funds directly or through third parties to recipients in “Colombia and/or Mexico.”
Over four months in 2020, they said, he allegedly remitted some 18 million euros, including through a “token system” whereby the recipient uses the serial number of a banknote as a “key” to pick up the money.
Members of the network allegedly sent more cash back to Mexico via Spain. A Spanish investigation found that “large sums” were transferred from the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong to Mexico through the bank accounts of Spanish companies.
According to the Spanish police, local businessmen had helped to obscure the origins of the money by using bank accounts of Spanish companies for transfers, “which in all probability were the product of drug trafficking.” This investigation is ongoing.
Authorities have not said who was on the receiving end of the transfers.
But Alverdi Benavides has been separately scrutinized for his connections in Mexico. In March 2022, he was arrested during a raid on a luxury home outside Mexico City, where police were searching for an alleged Colombian drug lord, Eduard Fernando Giraldo Cardoza, known by his alias “Boliqueso,” a Cheetos-like snack.
Alverdi Benavides was released due to abuses committed during the raid. He and Boliqueso did not reply to requests for comment.
Reporters found that Alverdi Benavides had also done business with a Mexican financial firm, Black Wallstreet Capital, which, according to a spokesperson for Mexico City’s prosecutors office, has come under federal investigation for “irregular” transactions and possible money laundering. Federal prosecutors did not respond to a query about the status of the investigation.
When reached for comment, Black Wallstreet’s owner, Juan Carlos Minero Alonso, told OCCRP that Alverdi Benavides and his relative had approached the company to “manage what they said was wealth obtained in the cargo transportation and cement construction sector.”
“Today, it’s clear they had intended to pass off their resources as legal by seeking to do business correctly with respectable and recognized business partners,” he said, adding he had ended any relationship with Alverdi Benavides more than two years ago because he did not like his “lifestyle.”
Minero denied having any involvement with alleged criminality, adding, “I led a legal entity, that paid taxes, that carried out regulated activities and with total transparency.”
Jorge Lara, researcher from National Institute of Criminal Sciences, said the lack of a healthy reporting system meant money laundering investigations often hit dead ends in Mexico. Between 2018 and 2022, just seven out of 752 money laundering cases referred to the attorney general’s office and other fiscal authorities were actually prosecuted — under one percent.
“Organized crime is celebrating,” Lara said. “Both for their [criminal] operations and the amount of resources they are moving.”