Canadian trucker charged El Chapo’s cartel $155,000 to move two loads of cocaine: documents
|National Post 29 Mar 2019 at 05:20|
A Canadian truck company owner accused of smuggling drugs for Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman charged the Mexican kingpin and his cronies US$155,000 to move two cocaine loads from the U.S. into Canada, court documents allege.
Toronto resident Mykhaylo Koretskyy, 44, is currently fighting extradition from Curacao to the U.S., where he has been indicted by the Southern District of New York over suspected ties to El Chapo.
Known as “Russian Mike” or “Cobra,” Koretskyy has been held in Curacao since arriving there from Toronto on an Air Canada flight on Jan. 3, 2018. In his January 2014 indictment, which was only unsealed days after his arrest, he is accused of trafficking with the Sinaloa Cartel leader who was convicted in Brooklyn last month of running a murderous drugs empire.
The dual Canadian-Ukrainian citizen is charged along with El Chapo and Hildebrando Alexander Cifuentes-Villa or “Alex,” a member of Colombia’s Cifuentes-Villa crime family, which partnered with Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel for years.
, a one-time Toronto real estate agent serving 15 years for drugs offences in Canada.
The indictments contain few specifics on how the four may have colluded, beyond saying that from October 2008 to January 2014, they distributed “five kilograms or more” of cocaine, for import to the U.S.
But on Tuesday, a top Netherlands official provided a list of U.S. allegations against Koretskyy before recommending that his appeal against extradition be dismissed. Koretskyy had appealed to the Supreme Court of the Netherlands because Curacao is a Dutch territory.
In this Jan. 19, 2017, file photo provided by the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, authorities escort Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman from a plane to a waiting caravan of SUVs at Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma, New York. United States Drug Enforcement Administration via AP
The U.S. allegations include that secretly taped conversations incriminate Koretskyy and his associates; that a trucking company he set up was “likely” designed just to move drugs; that he held meetings with cartel members in Mexico at which bags full of cash were passed between traffickers; and that he moved drugs by road from Buffalo to L.A. and then into Canada.
At El Chapo’s trial, the Mexican’s partnership with the Cifuentes-Villas was laid bare when Alex Cifuentes-Villa and his brother, Jorge Milton, joined various other cooperating witnesses and testified against their old partner. Alex had been captured in Mexico in late 2013, with Jorge Milton captured in Venezuela a year earlier.
Alex had lived for long periods with El Chapo in the Mexican mountains, starting in 2007. He told how, with El Chapo and Jorge Milton, he sourced huge loads of cocaine in Colombia and Ecuador, shipping them north. Tello was Alex’s main Canadian connection, he said, acting as the group’s seller in Canada once the drugs crossed the U.S. border. The group also dealt with Antonio Pietrantonio of the Montreal Mafia, or “Tony Suzuki,” he said.
Alex Cifuentes-Villa, middle, pictured with “El Chapo” Guzman and an unidentified woman in the mountains of Mexico. U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York
Now, documents disclose Koretskyy’s alleged role, after the U.S. sent an affidavit to Dutch authorities to back up their extradition request. An edited, shortened version of that affidavit was published by the procurator general at the Supreme Court of the Netherlands when he made his ruling.
The ruling refers to the Cifuentes-Villa organization but keeps individual suspects anonymous, because suspects in criminal cases are not named in the Netherlands. Beyond Koretskyy, the National Post has not been able to confirm the identities of the others referred to, and officials at the Southern District of New York did not respond to requests for the original affidavit.
However, Koretskyy is only being sought for extradition by the Southern District of New York, and patterns in the affidavit indicate that some or all of his New York co-indicted are referred to within the summary provided. Separate court documents and communiqués obtained by the National Post indicate the same.
A map of the Cifuentes-Villa trafficking organization in which Jorge Milton Cifuentes-Villa, top left, and Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, top right, are seen. Alex Cifuentes-Villa is seen below Guzman and to the left. U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York
The affidavit draws on two cartel members-turned cooperating witnesses, referred to only as CW-1 and CW-2. Both witnesses place Koretskyy, and a separate Canada-based drug seller for the cartel identified as Person 1, at cartel meetings in Mexico. The affidavit says the Canadians, who had a pre-existing relationship, worked “to arrange the transfer of narcotics from Mexico to Canada, through the United States.”
According to CW-2, Koretskyy was sent by the Canadian seller to meet a cartel leader known only as Person 2 in Mexico in late 2012 or early 2013. There, it’s alleged Koretskyy made a deal with Person 2 to move three loads of cocaine from the U.S. to Canada.
In late May, 2013, U.S. authorities recorded a further meeting between the group at which Koretskyy and the Canadian seller allegedly discussed moving drugs. CW-1, who would later cooperate with the Americans, was also present.
U.S. authorities believe, the affidavit states, that the shipment discussed by the Canadians at this meeting “represented a continuation of their cooperative efforts” to move drugs through the U.S. The cooperating witnesses have told the U.S. that Koretskyy had done prior U.S.-Canada shipments well before this gathering.
The affidavit alleges Koretskyy mentioned a “truck to Buffalo,” and says this was one of his trucks that stopped in the New York area before heading to Canada via L.A. and other cities.
Koretskyy allegedly had a question for his fellow Canadian when they met: how much he would be paid for his services? “Fifty-seven,” the Canadian seller replied, before allegedly fetching a bag containing $57,000 and giving it to Koretskyy.
The seller owed Koretskyy $20,000 more, he said, adding that the cartel was “waiting for another load of narcotics.” Koretskyy is alleged to have remarked that his fee for two loads was $155,000.
Koretskyy is alleged to have confirmed to CW-1 at the May meeting that he met with Person 2 and CW-2 (the other cooperating witness) in Mazatlán, Mexico, two months beforehand.
To back this up, the affidavit says travel records show Koretskyy going from Mazatlán to Canada on March 12, 2013. Mazatlán is a stronghold of Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel; El Chapo was captured there in 2014 before escaping from prison the following year.
Since touching down in Curacao more than a year ago on an Air Canada flight from Toronto, Koretskyy has been held by island authorities who were first warned of his arrival by a red notice from Interpol.
The exact amounts of drugs Koretskyy is accused of smuggling have not been revealed, but sources previously told the National Post that hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, secreted in commercial trucks, are allegedly involved and that he is a suspected “major” trafficker.
For this reason his dealings with Canadian authorities — and why he was free to move around and fly from Toronto, while apparently wanted by Interpol and the U.S. — have raised questions.
In recent months the National Post viewed court records that show Koretskyy was named in a May 1, 2015 RCMP warrant for trafficking in a substance and conspiracy to commit and indictable offence. However, when the National Post made further inquiries about this warrant, court authorities refused access and would not confirm its existence.
In a January email, RCMP would only say: “The RCMP is aware of media reports about Mykhaylo Koretskyy and cannot comment any further. The RCMP does not comment on specific investigative methods, tools and techniques outside of court.”
Defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman speaks with the media after a hearing in Brooklyn Federal Court regarding “El Chapo” Guzman on August 14, 2017 in New York. DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images
New York lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman, who represented El Chapo at trial, is representing Koretskyy but has not returned repeated requests for comment. A lawyer named as representing Koretskyy in the Dutch city of Maastricht also failed to return requests for comment.
Koretskyy’s defence has focused on what it says is a lack of evidence against their client. But documents from the Netherlands show Koretskyy’s appeal also focused on the fact that Canada, his home country, never asked for him to be extradited. The defence posed the question why, if Canada was not interested in his case, a U.S. judge should be so concerned with it.
The procurator general ruled that whether Canada wanted to prosecute Koretskyy was not a factor. Separately, Dutch officials told the National Post by email that if there is, or was, a warrant for Koretskyy in Canada “it is unknown and irrelevant here.”
The procurator general’s recommendation is independent advice which the Supreme Court can heed or ignore. A final decision is expected in the coming weeks.