Argentine police say this lawyer helped a hit man kill her own client. He was tied to the largest cocaine bust in OPP history

 thestar.com  6/14/2018 7:44:33 PM 

By Peter EdwardsStaff Reporter

Thu., June 14, 2018

A criminal lawyer in Argentina has been charged with helping a Mexican cartel sicario — or hit man — murder one of her clients as he awaited trial on charges connected to the largest cocaine seizure in the history of the Ontario Provincial Police.

Lawyer Julieta Estefania Bonanno, 29, was arrested last week in Buenos Aires. She is charged with helping a hooded hit man shoot her client Rodrigo Alexander Naged-Ramirez, 59, and his son dead in their apartment complex in that city on June 4.

Lawyer Julieta Estefania Bonanno waits outside her client’s apartment building in surveillance video released by Argentine police. Bonanno is charged in her client’s killing. The man behind her is a “sicario,” or hit man, with the Mexican cartel, police allege.
Lawyer Julieta Estefania Bonanno waits outside her client’s apartment building in surveillance video released by Argentine police. Bonanno is charged in her client’s killing. The man behind her is a “sicario,” or hit man, with the Mexican cartel, police allege.  (Police handout)

At the time of his killing, Naged-Ramirez was under house arrest, awaiting trial in Argentina on charges connected to a Canadian drug bust.

Naged-Ramirez was charged after police in the GTA and Argentina seized tonnes of cocaine in the GTA, Stoney Creek, Montreal and Argentina.

The scope and brutality of the case didn’t surprise a Toronto-area journalist who covered organized crime on the Mexican-U.S. border in the early 2000s, before he was forced to seek asylum in Canada over cartel death threats.

“This is a clear indication of how the Mexican drug cartels have expanded their criminal influence across the world,” said Luis Horacio Najera, who was based in Ciudad de Juarez, Mexico, covering cocaine trafficking, gun smuggling, corruption and the drug trade.

Naged-Ramirez’s son, Jhon Naged, 30, was also shot dead point blank on June 4 in the apartment he shared with his father in the Belgrano district of Buenos Aires.

Naged, a Colombian national, was not charged in the cocaine case.

The Canadian side of the case is called Project Hope. Last August, OPP commissioner Vince Hawkes announced police had found at total of 1,062 kilograms of 97-per-cent-pure cocaine with a street value of $250 million.

Police said they seized the cocaine in warehouses in Toronto and Stoney Creek, and inside containers in Montreal. The first arrests in the case came after a traffic stop on Highway 410.

The cocaine was apparently sourced from the Michoacan region of Mexico and shipped through the Andes to Chile and Argentina, before it was shipped to Canada, Najera said.

“Argentina has been a significant port of transit, or a ‘trampoline’ for Mexican drug cartels because of its location, and international trade with Europe and North America that facilitate movement of drugs, in particular cocaine from the Andean region,” Najera said.

“Unfortunately, corruption among local authorities has facilitated the settlement of drug cartels within the country, which has grown to the point of becoming a national security priority for the federal government,” Najera said.

An OPP handout photo released Aug. 28, 2017, shows some of the cocaine seized in Project Hope
An OPP handout photo released Aug. 28, 2017, shows some of the cocaine seized in Project Hope  (Submitted/OPP)

In Argentina, the case was called Bobinas Blancas — “Project White Coils” — because some of the cocaine was shipped in containers of steel coils.

The case was hailed as the most important drug bust in the last 20 years for Argentina. “The drug would have entered through Chile and gone to Spain and Canada,” Argentinean National Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said at a press conference after the arrests of 17 men in July, including Naged-Ramirez. Police found about 1,500 kilograms cocaine inside eight steel coils, ready to be shipped to Canada and Spain.

Weighing nearly 10,000 kilograms each, the coils were engineered to create a magnetic shield that blocked police scanners, police said.

It took police six hours to cut their way through the first coil of steel to retrieve cocaine, Bullrich said.

Earlier this month, murder investigators in Buenos Aires released security video of Bonanno with an unidentified hooded man suspected to be a sicario — or cartel hit man — in the lobby of her client’s apartment building on the night of the killings.

The suspected hit man wore a hoodie and a cap that hid his face.

Bonanno did not appear nervous on the tape. She looked at her cellphone and chewed gum, occasionally blowing bubbles as the hooded man stood behind her for about four minutes before Jhon Naged appeared and allowed them both inside.

According to Argentine media reports, Bonanno told police after the killings that she was forced to tie Naged-Ramirez and his son to chairs, and that she was then tied up herself and locked in a laundry room. When she managed to free herself, she reportedly said she saw the father and son dead in their home.

According to judicial investigators, Naged-Ramirez was an expert in charge of hiding drugs to avoid customs controls. He travelled to Argentina from Mexico in May of 2017.

Rodrigo Alexander Naged-Ramirez, 59, was under house arrest at the time he was shot dead.
Rodrigo Alexander Naged-Ramirez, 59, was under house arrest at the time he was shot dead.

A Mexican citizen living in Buenos Aires, Naged-Ramirez was indicted on cocaine trafficking charges in Argentina on July 6, 2017.

While in custody, he apparently suffered a heart attack and brain damage. A medical committee allowed him to await trial under house arrest.

His nickname was “The Engineer,” according to media reports.

Naged-Ramirez was shot twice in the head from about 10 centimetres, while his son was shot dead with the muzzle of a nine-milimetre pistol pressed against his forehead, according to Argentinian media reports.

No court date has been set for Bonanno.

A OPP graphic released at the time of the Project Hope drug bust.
A OPP graphic released at the time of the Project Hope drug bust.  (Submitted/OPP)

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