Ecuador's arrest of a Russian national suspected of drug trafficking points to the country's importance as a operating base for international criminal groups.
On July 31, Ecuadorean police arrested Grigory Basalygin, a Russian citizen, in the port city of Guayaquil, reported La Hora. Basalygin is accused of drug trafficking and aggravated robbery in his home country and has had an Interpol red notice against his name since 2010.
According to Ecuador's deputy interior minister, Javier Cordoba, Basalygin arrived in Ecuador in 2006, and since then has left for only one month in late 2007 to travel to Italy and Spain.
He is due to be extradited to Russia, which the country requested in 2010.
InSight Crime Analysis
Basalygin is not the first suspected Russian criminal to have been captured in Ecuador. In June last year, authorities detained and later extradited Maxim Myasnikov, who was wanted for arms trafficking, following the extradition of another Russian citizen in April 2010. Like Basalygin, Myasnikov had reportedly been in Ecuador since 2006.
Ecuador's importance as a base for transnational organized crime led the director of the Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Andes operations to declare in May 2011 that the country had become the "United Nations" of organized crime. He cited cases of Italian, Albanian and Chinese groups all operating criminal networks out of Ecuador as evidence of this. A report by El Comercio last year found the Russian mafia to be linked to human trafficking networks in Ecuador.
Some factors attracting criminal groups to Ecuador are the country's lax visa policies, proximity to the world's cocaine producers, and use of the US dollar as currency, as InSight Crime has noted. The country's relative lack of its own criminal infrastructure -- compared to Colombia, for example -- provides space for transnational groups to move in.