The five suspects arrested on October 17

Ecuadorean police have dismantled two criminal networks stretching from South and Central America to Eastern Europe, highlighting Ecuador's growing role as hub for transnational crime.

On October 7, Ecuadorean police, with the help of Polish authorities, executed a series of raids in Guayaquil and Montañita that led to the seizure of some $80,000 in cash and the arrest of seven people. According to El Comercio, the group was involved in drug trafficking and money laundering, with connections in Lithuania, Ukraine, and Panama.

On October 17, a joint investigation between the Ecuadorean Attorney General's Office and Ukrainian police led to the arrest of five Ecuadoreans in the southwestern city of Machala. These men were allegedly involved in a drug trafficking network led by a recently-arrested Ukrainian kingpin.

The Attorney General's Office is currently investigating whether these two groups are connected.

InSight Crime Analysis

Ecuador's emergence as a hotspot for transnational crime led Jay Bergman, the director of the Drug Enforcement Administration's operations in the Andes, to describe the country as the "United Nations" of organized crime. In the past few years, Ecuador has seen an increase in the acitivites of Russian, Chinese, Albanian, Colombian, and Mexican organized criminal groups, and witnessed an explosion of African and Asian nationals moving through the country.

There are several factors that have contributed to Ecuador's growing importance as a meeting ground for transnational crime: lax visa policies, political instability, proximity to some of Colombia's most prolific drug cultivation areas and the use of the US dollar as official currency (which has facilitated money laundering).

The only potential silver lining is the resulting increase in transnational law enforcement cooperation between Ecuador and European countries. Last month, for instance, Ecuadorean police conducted an operation with Belgian and Dutch law enforcement that led to the seizure of eight tons of cocaine shipped from Ecuador and bound for the Netherlands that was worth around $647 million.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

The power of Colombia's elites is founded upon one of the most unequal divisions of land in the world. As of the early 21st century, one percent of landowners own more than half the country's agricultural land.1  Under Spanish rule, Colombia's agriculture was organized on the hacienda...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Honduras is currently one of the most violent countries on the planet that is not at war. The violence is carried out by transnational criminal organizations, local drug trafficking groups, gangs and corrupt security forces, among other actors. Violence is the focal point for the international aid...

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Organized crime and the violence associated with it is the preeminent problem in Latin America and the Caribbean today. The region is currently home to six of the most violent countries in the world that are not at war. Four of those countries are in Central America...

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

Special Report: Gangs in Honduras

In a new report based on extensive field research, InSight Crime and the Asociacion para una Sociedad mas Justa have traced how Honduras' two largest gangs, the MS13 and the Barrio 18, are evolving, and how their current modus operandi has resulted in staggering levels of violence...

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Bolivia: the New Hub for Drug Trafficking in South America

Transnational organized crime likes opportunities and little resistance. Bolivia currently provides both and finds itself at the heart of a new criminal dynamic that threatens national and citizen security in this landlocked Andean nation.

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

Justice and the Creation of a Mafia State in Guatemala

As Guatemala's Congress gears up to select new Supreme Court Justices and appellate court judges, InSight Crime is investigating how organized crime influences the selection process. This story details the interests of one particular political bloc vying for control over the courts and what's at stake: millions...

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

The FARC 2002-Present: Decapitation and Rebirth

In August 2002, the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) greeted Colombia's new president with a mortar attack that killed 14 people during his inauguration. The attack was intended as a warning to the fiercely anti-FARC newcomer. But it became the opening salvo of...

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The Urabeños - The Criminal Hybrid

The mad scramble for criminal power in the aftermath of the demobilization of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) is over. The Urabeños, or as they prefer to call themselves, the "Autodefensas Gaitanistas de Colombia," have won.

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Mexico's Security Dilemma: The Battle for Michoacan

Faced with the government's failure to rein in the criminals, communities across crime-besieged Mexico have been trying for years to organize effective civic resistance. Michoacan's vigilantes express the most extreme response by society to date, but other efforts have been less belligerent. In battle-torn cities along the...

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

Uruguay's Marijuana Bill Faces Political, Economic Obstacles

If Uruguay's proposal to regulate the production, sale and distribution of marijuana is properly implemented and overcomes political and economic hurdles, it could be the most important drug regulation experiment in decades.