Ecuador Tightens Controls on Diplomatic Mail After Cocaine Scandal

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The Ecuadorean government is implementing reforms to the diplomatic bag service in response to the discovery last year of 40 kilos of cocaine sent to Italy in diplomatic cargo.  

The Diplomatic Bag Service bylaw introduces 11 new security measures, including CCTV monitoring and digital alert systems, to prevent tampering while shipments are in storage or en route.

Under the terms of the new law, anti-narcotics police will control and monitor diplomatic shipments.

The law comes a year after a diplomatic bag of art materials for an Ecuadorean cultural event in Italy was found to contain jars holding 40 kilos of liquid cocaine.

Five Ecuadorean citizens were arrested in connection with the case. One of the accused, Jorge Luis Redroban Quevedo, allegedly has links to Central Bank President Pedro Delgado (who is also President Rafael Correa’s cousin), Correa’s sister, and to the Ecuadorean Consulate in Milan.

Three of the five are currently serving four to eight-year sentences, while the cases of the other two are being processed, according to Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño.

InSight Crime Analysis

According to Ecuador’s prosecutor general, the Italian shipment is an isolated case, and there is no indication that drug trafficking organizations had used diplomatic bags for moving drugs previously.

Even if this is true, other countries such as Venezuela have seen allegations of systematic abuse of the diplomatic bag service. This could also be a risk in Ecuador, which is an increasingly popular staging point for the international drug trade.

However, it could also be argued that the new law is primarily a response to the raft of unwelcome publicity Ecuador saw as a result of the original case, and leaves the transnational drug trafficking groups moving large shipments through the country to expand unchecked.

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