One of Peru’s most-wanted men has been captured in Colombia and deported marking a leap forward in a high profile case against a powerful criminal network with links to land trafficking, money laundering and the drug trade.
Rodolfo Orellana, alias “El Gordo,” a Peruvian lawyer and businessman who had been on the run for months, was captured in the southwest Colombian city of Cali on November 13 by Colombia’s investigative police (DIJIN), with the help of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). After his capture, he was transported to Bogota and swiftly deported back to Peru.
According to Colombia’s presidential website, Orellana had entered Colombia about two months before his capture and was being protected by “friends and contacts” there, including “family members of a murdered Valle del Cauca drug trafficker.”
At the time of his arrest, Orellana was wanted by international police body Interpol for money laundering and illicit association, and was reportedly processing fake documents with the goal of escaping to Sweden.
Together with his sister Ludith — who was captured on the same day just north of Lima — Orellana allegedly ran a massive criminal network that included lawyers, members of the Peruvian judiciary and police, politicians and other public sector employees. He is thought to have amassed a fortune of around $100 million via the fraudulent seizure and resale of properties belonging to individuals and the state, and to have created some 50 front companies to launder illicitly conceived money.
Case prosecutor Marita Barreto told Peru 21 that Orellana was also being investigated for drug ties.
InSight Crime Analysis
Given Orellana’s extensive network and penetration of state institutions — as well as his apparent international contacts — his capture is an important victory for the Peruvian authorities, and is likely to have some members of Peru’s political elite running scared.
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Legal sources in Peru had previously told InSight Crime that they were preparing 50 cases against members of Orellana’s network — out of a total of 200 suspected members they had identified — making this one of the most extensive cases ever built against one group in Peru.
Orellana’s capture comes shortly after the late October arrest of one of his alleged top operators, retired Police Colonel Benedicto Jimenez, who was formerly considered a hero in the war against the country’s Shining Path guerrillas.
Orellana’s choice to flee to Colombia indicates he felt the political protection he had enjoyed was crumbling, though it is interesting that he was willing to take his chances in a country that has in recent years placed considerable emphasis on taking down criminal kingpins.