The cocaine cartel linked to London memorial shooting spread its evil grip across the globe

Empire of evil: How the notorious Colombian Cali drugs cartel handled 90 per cent of Europe’s cocaine after Pablo Escobar’s slaughter – as money launderer’s link to drive-by shooting at London memorial service emerge

  • The infamous Colombian Cali drug cartel was linked to memorial shooting
  • London memorial was held for Sara Sanchez and her mother, Fresia Calderon
  • Ms Calderon’s ex, Carlos Arturo Sanchez-Coronado, is gangster with cartel links 
  • The Cali Cartel was featured on Netflix and once handled 91% of world’s cocaine 

The cartel linked to a drive-by shooting at a memorial service for a mother and daughter in London was so notorious it was featured in hit Netflix series Narcos.

The funeral was being held for Sara Sanchez and her mother, Fresia Calderon, whose ex-husband, Carlos Arturo Sanchez-Coronado, had been the ‘money deliverer’ for a London-based gang with members linked to the infamous Colombian Cali Cartel.

In 2006 the drug dealers, mainly based in north London, admitted importing 150 kilograms of cocaine and sending as much as £19million back to Colombia. Investigators believe the real amount to be much higher.

Sanchez-Coronado had already fled abroad by the time UK police busted the gang in 2003.

Carlos Arturo Sanchez-Coronado had fled abroad but was hauled back to the UK

Carlos Arturo Sanchez-Coronado had fled abroad but was hauled back to the UK

 

Bundles of US dollars were seized during the raids on the homes of the London gang in 2003. The gang was linked to drugs supplied from the Colombian Cali Cartel

Bundles of US dollars were seized during the raids on the homes of the London gang in 2003. The gang was linked to drugs supplied from the Colombian Cali Cartel

Drugs were distributed by the cartel through Spain, where they were sent to London to be sold before profits were sent back to South America

Drugs were distributed by the cartel through Spain, where they were sent to London to be sold before profits were sent back to South America

More than 100 officers swooped on the homes of 17 suspects and businesses and arrested ten men and two women.

Jesus Ruiz Henao and his brother-in-law Mario Tascon posed as respectable members of the public but were jailed for 19 years and 17 years respectively in 2006 for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and money laundering offences. 

Another 29 people were also jailed for their roles in the gang.

 

Carlos Arturo Sanchez-Coronado (left), with daughter Sara Sanchez, who died from terminal leukaemia

Carlos Arturo Sanchez-Coronado (left), with daughter Sara Sanchez, who died from terminal leukaemia

Police officers lead away a man arrested in Hornsey during a series of raids in London in 2003

Police officers lead away a man arrested in Hornsey during a series of raids in London in 2003

Packages of what is believed to be high-grade cocaine seized in London by the Met Police

Packages of what is believed to be high-grade cocaine seized in London by the Met Police

But Sanchez-Coronado had escaped to Colombia and would not face justice until 2009 after he had been discovered working as a taxi driver in Colombia in May 2008.

As he battled to try and avoid extradition he claimed he used the money earned in the gang to help his sick daughter in Colombia. It is unclear to whom he was referring.

He was brought back to Southwark Crown Court where he was jailed for five and a half years for helping the ring launder money.

The Colombian Cali Cartel was featured in Netflix's hit series Narcos

The Colombian Cali Cartel was featured in Netflix’s hit series Narcos

A total of 31 people were jailed for their roles in the London gang, linked to the Cali Cartel

A total of 31 people were jailed for their roles in the London gang, linked to the Cali Cartel

 

The London ring was smashed in 2003 but Sanchez-Coronado had escaped to Colombia

The London ring was smashed in 2003 but Sanchez-Coronado had escaped to Colombia

On his release, the crook moved back to South America, where he was believed to be living in the Chilean capital of Santiago when he died aged 56 last year. 

But his links to the Colombian Cali Cartel may now be haunting London’s streets.

The drugs empire was founded in 1987 by brothers Gilberto Rodríguez Orejuela and Miguel Rodríguez Orejuela.

They had broken from Pablo Escobar’s operation and, at the height of their powers, were said to control more than 90 per cent of the world’s cocaine.

A suspect in the 2003 raids is led away after the police said the UK cartel had been smashed

A suspect in the 2003 raids is led away after the police said the UK cartel had been smashed

Meanwhile Carlos Arturo Sanchez-Coronado, pictured, had fled to Colombia after the London raids

Meanwhile Carlos Arturo Sanchez-Coronado, pictured, had fled to Colombia after the London raids

DEA chief Thomas Constantine called it ‘the biggest, most powerful crime syndicate we’ve ever known’.

It was a trip by Gilberto into Spain in the mid-1980s that saw the drugs ring expand into Europe.

Through the Italian Camorra Mafia-style network, its cocaine was distributed across the Continent.

Guerrilla faction FARC kidnapped Christina Santa Cruz, the daughter of Cali Cartel leader José Santacruz Londoño, in 1992.

On November 7, 2002, Colombian drug kingpin Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela walked out of prison as a free man after serving seven years on a 15-year sentence

On November 7, 2002, Colombian drug kingpin Gilberto Rodriguez Orejuela walked out of prison as a free man after serving seven years on a 15-year sentence

This August 1995 file photo shows Cali Cartel top leader Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela after his capture

This August 1995 file photo shows Cali Cartel top leader Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela after his capture

But the cartel responded to its demand for a £10million ransom by snatching 20 or more members of the Colombian Communist Party and other organisations and the sister of Pablo Catatumbo, a representative of the Simón Bolívar Guerrilla Coordinating Board.

Eventually the family members were released. 

The cartel operated under a cloak of fear and intimidation. Death threats were made against those who made mistakes and junior members were murdered.

The cartel was eventually brought down when Jorge Salcedo Cabrera, the operation’s head of security, became a confidential informant for the DEA.

Saturday’s shooting, which took place at around 1.30pm in Euston, happened as mourners attended a service for Sara Sanchez, 20, and her mother Fresia Calderon, 50. 

Ms Calderon is understood to have died from a blood clot in November following a flight from Colombia to Heathrow, before Ms Sanchez died from terminal leukaemia three weeks later. 

The Metropolitan Police said it had arrested a 22-year-old man following the shooting outside St Aloysius Church, which left six people injured, including a seven-year-old girl who remains in a serious condition with ‘life-threatening’ injuries.  

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