Peru Drug Bust Could Signal Move into Transnational Trafficking

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Officials in Peru have said a group busted in Lima with over 600 kilos of cocaine in their storehouse is the first known independent Peruvian structure engaged in transnational drug trafficking to the United States, indicating the country’s homegrown organized crime may be reaching a new level.

In an operation beginning March 27, Peru’s anti-drug police (Dirandro), working alongside the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), seized 626 kilos of cocaine and other property valued at a total of approximately $25 million from a “narco-mansion” in the La Molina district on the outskirts of the capital, reported EFE. They also found 18 vehicles, and numerous firearms.

According to Dirandro officials, the head of the group is Peruvian businessman Jorge Ignacio Cerbellon Aparicio, who was arrested at the house along with his wife, his two children, and a family friend, the latter three of whom have dual US and Peruvian nationality, reported Peru 21. Officials arrested four other members of the structure during later raids, reported El Comercio.

Dirandro chief of operations Cesar Arevalo said the group sent nearly two tons of cocaine in four shipments to the United States before it was disbanded, working together with contacts in Miami and New York, reported El Comercio.

The family clan was allegedly the first Peruvian “cartel” that operated independently, without links to Mexican or Colombian drug traffickers, according to anonymous Dirandro sources cited by La Republica. However, Peru 21 reported that a safe found in the drug traffickers’ house evidenced that the group was financed by Mexican national Alejandro Vargas, known as “Pelao.”

The drugs sold by the group were brought to Lima mainly from around the centrally located Upper Huallaga Valley region, in small shipments of 50 to 80 kilos, hidden among cargo including fruit and wood, according to Peru 21.

InSight Crime Analysis

The transnational shipment of Peruvian drugs to consumer markets has for the most part been in the hands of foreigners since Colombian traffickers began importing Peruvian cocaine paste in the 1980s. The Colombians have since been joined by Mexican groups, and other traffickers from around the region.

However, with Peru now the world’s top cocaine producer, there have been signs that homegrown groups are looking to increase their involvement in the trade. In the country’s main drug producing regions, small family based clans now control production and export, acting as independent suppliers to transnational groups rather than part of any integrated structure.

SEE ALSO: Peru News and Profiles

Although the details of the current case are still sparse, it could prove the first clear example of a homegrown Peruvian organization moving beyond this level and trafficking directly to the marketplace independently of foreign overseers.

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