Paraguay Seizes Drug Traffickers’ Airport Scanner

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Paraguayan authorities intercepted an airport scanning machine bound for a suspected transatlantic drug trafficking operation, evidence of the increasingly sophisticated technologies being employed to avoid detection.

The scanning equipment (see photo) was seized on July 25 outside of Paraguay’s capital Asuncion as part of a joint operation between Paraguayan and Spanish officials. According to authorities, it likely would have been used to prepare drug shipments meant for air transport by evaluating what containers with cocaine could evade detection. Airport security systems typically employ similar scanners to the one seized.

The intended recipient of the scanner was Conagra Meat & Poultry, a company suspected of being used as a front for drug trafficking and run by the Spanish citizen Fernando Stimac Jaen, reported Ultima Hora. Stimac was detained at his home in Asuncion in May along with a Colombian citizen and 420 kilograms of cocaine.

InSight Crime Analysis

Stimac’s meat business is alleged to have been created for the sole purpose of trafficking cocaine to Europe and had even signed an agreement with the government in 2011 for the export of Paraguyan tilapia, increasing its strength as a front company. The seizure of a scanner reportedly bound for Stimac’s enterprise is a worrying sign of the increased sophistication of techniques used by smugglers to get their product to Europe.

The involvement of Spanish authorities in the operation highlights the importance of Spain an entry point for cocaine bound for Europe. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, nearly half of all cocaine seizures in Europe are carried out in Spain.·

Paraguay has become a key transshipment point for cocaine, due in part to its location between major producer Bolivia and consumer Brazil, and also its high levels of corruption in the military and police who are believed to be complicit in trafficking networks. Recently, Paraguayan authorities arrested a former military colonel from the country, along with a Brazilian national, with 40 kilograms of cocaine.

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