Investigators say a network of corrupt airport police in Peru smuggled cocaine to the Mexico City airport, where three officers died last year during a shoot-out between federal forces.
According to Peruvian newspaper La Republica, ten out of the 15 police once deployed at Lima’s Jose Chavez International Airport are accused of running the cocaine-smuggling scheme. Those under investigation include a major, two captains, a lieutenant, and six other officers.
Police would tape cocaine packets to their body and enter the airport, and hide the drugs in a bathroom where it would then be picked up by couriers who had made it past airport security. The drug couriers would then board their flights without fear of being searched again.
As La Republica reports, Peru’s anti-drug force, the Dirandro, was first alerted about the possible existence of a police drug-smuggling ring following the June 2012 shooting at Mexico City’s international airport. The shooting involved a pair of corrupt Mexican police officers who opened fire on their fellow agents, after they were confronted about their involvement in the drug trade. The corrupt cops were coordinating the transfer of cocaine shipments from the Lima airport to Mexico City.
Following the tip-off from Mexican authorities, Peru law enforcement began investigating the airport police in Lima. A unit of Peru’s Attorney General’s Office dedicated to tracking organized crime opened a case against the ten officers in August 2012.
One of the police captains under investigation is accused of charging drug trafficking organizations a tax in return for the safe passage of the cocaine shipments. Other airport police allegedly acted as look-outs, alerting the others in case something went wrong during the handover process.
InSight Crime Analysis
The shooting in the Mexico City airport had widespread repercussions, including the eventual replacement of all the federal police once stationed there. It also served as a reminder of the airport’s importance as a hub for the international drug trade. The collaboration between Mexican and Peruvian law enforcement in identifying the links in this particular drug trafficking chain is therefore worth applauding.
The case highlights the apparent ease with which Peru-based drug trafficking organizations can buy off allies in the airport police. It is also clear that Peru is home to a large number of people willing to act as couriers in such schemes: last year, 248 drug smugglers were arrested attempting to board flights in the Lima international airport.