Paraguay sacks ministers over links to drug smuggling suspects

Paraguay’s president fired two ministers last week who were allegedly linked to organized crime. The move came after police busted a gang allegedly responsible for shipping around 21 tonnes of cocaine to Europe.

Paraguay’s President Mario Abdo Benítez has sacked the head of the National Emergency Agency, Joaquin Roa, who bought a yacht from one of the suspects arrested during the police operation carried out with the help of Europol, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and an anti-drug unit from Uruguay. (Photo: Marcos Corrêa/PR, Flickr, License)Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez on Thursday fired the head of the National Emergency Agency, Joaquin Roa, who bought a yacht from one of the suspects arrested in the police operation carried out with the help of Europol, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and an anti-drug unit from Uruguay.

Two days earlier, Abdo Benítez fired Interior Minister Arnaldo Giuzzio over his alleged links to a Brazilian drug trafficker arrested two weeks ago in Foz do Iguaçu, a Brazilian city across the border from Ciudad del Este.

The sackings came after Paraguayan authorities arrested eight suspected gang members linked to around 21 tonnes of drugs that were seized multiple times in Antwerp, Rotterdam, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Police also raided several locations, seizing assets worth more than $100 million, including luxury real estate, nine planes, 24 luxury cars, weapons, three yachts and thousands of livestock, said indicated the National Anti-Drug Secretariat of Paraguay (SENAD). announced on Twitter.

The American chief of mission in Paraguay, Joseph Salazar, noted that the operation was “one of the biggest blows to organized crime in Paraguay in recent times. We salute the efforts of the National Drug Control Secretariat and prosecutors for their commitment to combating this scourge.

“Operation ‘A Ultranza Py’ is the biggest operation against money laundering from drug trafficking in the country’s history,” said SENAD official Zully Rolón.

The gang is said to have airlifted cocaine from producing countries, particularly Bolivia, via Paraguay, where the drugs were concealed in containers on ships departing from the country’s river ports to Europe and Africa. .

The group was allegedly led by a Uruguayan drug trafficker with a Paraguayan passport, Sebastián Enrique Marset Cabrera, who was arrested in late 2021 at Dubai airport.

Miguel Insfrán, alias Tío Rico, was reportedly in charge of supplying the trucks for transporting the drugs, while Senator Sergio Godoy’s father-in-law was in charge of air logistics.

Additionally, Alberto Koube Ayala, a cattle rancher, allegedly laundered drug money through several businesses he owned. He was arrested a block from his home in the Paraguayan capital on Tuesday.

Another gang member identified as evangelical pastor José Insfrán allegedly laundered the money through churches, properties, hotels and radio stations.

Paraguay has become a crucial link in the transnational cocaine supply chain between South America, Europe and Africa. A media outlet recently said in an editorial that the Latin American country is “acquiring the characteristics of a narco-state”.

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