Paraguay has announced the capture of one of the country’s major marijuana exporters two years after he escaped prison, giving President Horacio Cartes a high-profile scalp in his apparent fight against crime and corruption.
Damian Delvalle Sanabria, known as the “marijuana king,” was detained on Friday after investigators from the country’s anti-drug force (SENAD) raided a luxury mansion in the southern city of Encarnacion, near the tri-border area with Argentina and Brazil, reported Ultima Hora.
The property belonged to his partner, a former legal advisor for a state hydroelectric project, reported ABC Color.
Delvalle was originally detained by SENAD in November 2010 in the possession of over two tons of marijuana, but escaped in May 2011 after allegedly paying $150,000 for a falsified release order, reported ABC Color.
According to La Nacion, Delvalle headed a criminal group which transported marijuana to neighboring countries and was connected with 800 kilos recently seized at the Argentina-Paraguay border.
He is also the subject of an extradition request from Argentina and wanted in connection with the 2003 kidnapping of the son of a former Argentine minister, according to ABC Color.
According to the 2013 UN World Drug Report, 171 tons of marijuana were seized in Paraguay in 2011 — more than double the seizures made in 2009 — although SENAD placed 2011 seizures in excess of 300 tons.
InSight Crime Analysis
While it is unclear exactly how much marijuana Delvalle was responsible for exporting, it is clear that he was a key player in the trade in South America’s biggest marijuana producing country.
According to the State Department’s 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, 80 percent of the marijuana produced in Paraguay is destined for the domestic market in Brazil. With Argentina also a significant domestic market, the location where Delvalle was found would have been ideal for orchestrating exports.
With recently sworn in President Horacio Cartes attempting to overcome accusations of ties to drug trafficking, the capture of a major trafficker living the high life in the company of a former government employee represents a high-profile success in his declared battle against crime and corruption.