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

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros

On the morning of April 5, 1988, Juan Ramón Matta Ballesteros left his palatial Tegucigalpa estate for a jog. Matta Ballesteros was wanted for murder, drug trafficking and other crimes in several countries, but in Honduras he felt safe. He regularly hosted parties for high-level officials at...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: Introduction

Guatemala is Central America’s most populous country and its largest economy. But an intransigent elite, an ambitious military and a weak state has opened the way for organized crime to flourish, especially since the return of democracy.

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The CICIG

Like any arm of the justice system, the United Nations-backed International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala - CICIG) had its battles with elites who used their charm and their muscle to try to influence what and who the celebrated commission...

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC and the Drug Trade: Siamese Twins?

The FARC have always had a love-hate relationship with drugs. They love the money it brings, funds which have allowed them to survive and even threaten to topple the state at the end of the 1990s. They hate the corruption and stigma narcotics have also brought to...

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

Honduras Elites and Organized Crime: The Cachiros

As it tends to happen in Honduras, the news began as a well-heeled rumor: Javier Rivera Maradiaga, the oldest of the three Rivera Maradiaga brothers still alive and leader of the feared and powerful Honduran drug trafficking group known as the Cachiros, had handed himself in to...

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Elites and Organized Crime: Preface

Organized crime is not an abstract concept for me. I grew up in Oak Park, a leafy suburb of Chicago with a population of about 60,000. In general, it was a very low crime city, which is perhaps why many mobsters made their homes there, among them...

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Don Berna'

By the end of 1993, Pablo Escobar was cornered. The cocaine king -- known as "El Patrón" -- was running out of money and options. His top assassins were either dead or had turned themselves in. Almost all of the senior members of the Medellín Cartel were...

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

Elites and Organized Crime: Conceptual Framework - Organized Crime

This project defines organized crime as: a structured group of people that associate on a regular and prolonged basis to benefit from illicit activities and illegal markets. This group can be local, national or transnational in nature, and its existence is maintained using violence and threats; corruption...

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

Guatemala Elites and Organized Crime: The 'Huistas'

In the northwest corner of Guatemala, a little known criminal organization known as the "Huistas" dominates the underworld, in large part due its ties with businessmen, law enforcement officials and politicians.

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Colombia Elites and Organized Crime: 'Jorge 40'

Rodrigo Tovar Pupo never imagined it would come to this: dressed in an orange jumpsuit in a Washington DC courtroom and standing in front of a United States federal judge, the grandson of a wealthy Colombian cattle rancher and nephew to a governor was facing a possible...