In the one of the first acts of cooperation since Chile and Bolivia had a spat over the arrest of Bolivia’s former top drug czar, the two countries collaborated in an operation targeting a money laundering and drug trafficking ring.
With support from Chilean police, Bolivia’s Special Force Against Drug Trafficking (Fuerza Especial de Lucha Contra el Narcotrafico – FELCN) carried out twelve simultaneous raids across the country in efforts to dismantle the criminal group, which is active in both countries, reports La Razon.
Five people were arrested on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, while police seized at least thirteen properties, 40 vehicles and more than $70,000 in cash in the cities of Cochabamba, Santa Cruz and La Paz.
Los Tiempos reports that the crackdown was intended to impact the Vilque Soria family, believed to run drug trafficking networks in Bolivia and Chile, laundering the proceeds through various front companies.
The FELCN commander in Santa Cruz, Fernando Amurrio, confirmed that the investigation was prompted by the seizure of over 800 kilos of cocaine in Chile in July 2010. Police traced the shipment back to Betzabe Vilque Soria, owner of the international shipping company Udebol. Vilque Soria is believed to be one of the main ringleaders of the gang.
This is one of the first signs of collaboration between Chilean and Bolivian security forces, ever since the arrest of Bolivia’s former top anti-drug official raised tensions between the two countries. The international warrant for the arrest of retired police general Rene Sanabria was issued thanks to Chilean intelligence, who did not inform the top levels of the Bolivian government first. President Evo Morales later criticized the move.