Cali Cartel scion linked to illegal Shark fin trafficking operation


In a startling revelation, the son of a former Cali Cartel kingpin, Fernando Rodríguez Mondragón, has been implicated in running an illicit shark fin trafficking operation. Colombian authorities intercepted a substantial shipment of nearly 3,500 shark fins destined for Hong Kong in September 2021. These fins, considered a prized delicacy in Asia, were cleverly concealed among over 100 kilograms of fish bladders, highlighting the sophisticated nature of the operation.

The illicit cargo, valued in Asia for its use in expensive soups, originated from a company owned by Rodríguez Mondragón. The interception took place at Bogotá’s El Dorado airport, and authorities estimated that the shipment led to the killing of between 900 and 1,000 sharks. This incident occurred merely six months after Colombia implemented a ban on fishing and trading in sharks and their parts.

While public authorities refrained from disclosing the identities of the involved parties, a leak of files from the Colombian prosecutor’s office exposed Rodríguez Mondragón’s connection to the shipment. This revelation was substantiated by an analysis of prosecutor documents, interviews, company registries, and property records conducted by OCCRP, Mongabay Latam, and

Leaked files indicate that the shark fin shipment triggered an ongoing money laundering investigation. Despite the prosecutor’s office stating that the case was in the investigation phase, further details were not shared in September. Additionally, the processing techniques observed on the shark fins, such as drying and skinning, were uncommon outside Asia, suggesting a potential export of processing skills to Latin America.

The trail of the shark fin shipment was traced from its origin in the northern coastal city of Maicao to its intended destination in Hong Kong. Rodríguez Mondragón’s company, based in Roldanillo, played a crucial role in the transportation of the cargo. Fernando Jiménez, director for crimes against natural resources and the environment at the prosecutor’s office, revealed that Rodríguez Mondragón was under house arrest during the ongoing investigation, facing charges related to wildlife trafficking.

Rodríguez Mondragón, upon contact by reporters, vehemently denied involvement in the shark fin shipment, attributing it to a Chinese employee who, according to him, acted without consent while he was recovering from Covid-19. He provided videos purportedly showing the employee’s actions, suggesting the prosecutor’s office possessed these recordings.

Beyond the shark fins, the shipment also included fish bladders, lacking proper documentation for trade. Although not illegal in general, trade in fish bladders is regulated, and the permit presented for the shipment was found to have expired. Rodríguez Mondragón argued that AUNAP, Colombia’s fisheries agency, did not require a permit for trading fish bladders, considering them waste products. AUNAP, however, stated that a permit was indeed necessary for such trade.

The fish bladders’ origin was traced to Maicao, near the Venezuelan border, where no permits for processing fish maws had been issued. This information contradicted Rodríguez Mondragón’s claims, further complicating the legal standing of the entire shipment.

Fernapez S.A.S., the company owned by Rodríguez Mondragón, had been involved in legal shark-related activities before the ban, but the company’s permit was no longer valid due to the prohibition. The recipient of the seized cargo in Hong Kong was identified as Ho’S Import & Export Limited, the primary buyer of Fernapez’s exports according to Colombian customs data.

Attempts to contact Ho’S Import & Export for comments were unsuccessful.

The illicit trade in shark fins, a lucrative industry globally, threatens vulnerable and endangered shark species protected under international conventions such as CITES. Conservationists estimate the annual revenue from the shark fin trade alone to be as high as $500 million. The processed shark fins in the seized shipment, a rarity in Latin America, suggest a potential transfer of processing knowledge from Asia.

The involvement of the son of a former Cali Cartel leader adds a layer of complexity to the case, and with ongoing investigations and legal proceedings, the illicit shark fin trafficking operation is set to be closely scrutinized by authorities and environmental organizations alike.


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