InSight Crime
is about to launch a new website.
We won’t be publishing new content for the next few days.
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
Prev Next

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...