Chile’s Investigative Police (PDI) dismantled a transnational gang dedicated to ecstasy trafficking, carrying out the largest seizure of this narcotic in South America. The seizure was the result of a concertedeffort with the Netherlands Police, with surveillance that began in the port of Rotterdam and continued all the way to northern Chile’s port of Iquique.
“We were able to figure out the route and modus operandi of the gang through criminal analysis and different investigative techniques, also establishing that the same organization directed the shipments, and that they would be received by their associates within a short time period,” ChiefRodrigo Fuentes, head of the PDI’s Anti-Narcotics and Organized Crime Northern Zone Headquarters, told Diálogo. “Once our agents in Iquique had the entire criminal group under surveillance, which was carrying out its own process to recover the drugs, we ordered the entry and search of homes and vehicles on public roads.”
The operation concluded with the seizure of 474,342 ecstasy tablets and more than 120 kilograms of MDMA in bulk, which would be used for the production of more pills. Authorities estimate the total seizure to be equivalent to 1.2 million doses, the PDI said in a June 24 statement.
The drugs were hidden in various vehicles and equipment shipped from the Netherlands. So far authorities arrested five people, all Dominican nationals, said the Chilean General Attorney’s Office, adding that one of the criminals is a former Dominican police officer. The PDI investigation determined that three of the suspects had traveled from Holland to Chile to supervise the entry, storage, and distribution of the drugs.
“The seizure corresponds to an enormous quantity of synthetic drugs, the largest ever seized in Chile and probably in South America,” prosecutor Paola Apablaza, head of the Public Prosecutor’s Office for the Tarapacá Region’s Criminal Analysis and Investigative Focus Unit, told Diálogo. “We understand that this was not the first time this gang trafficked along this route due to the quantity of drug seized, which would require that this [route] had been tried before.”
The continued flow of synthetic drugs from Belgium and the Netherlands to Latin America appears to have found a new market in Chile, InSight Crime, an organization that studies organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean, indicated in a July 1 report. That is why “in order to carry out its investigative work, the PDI is in permanent contact with different police forces worldwide, thanks to which this seizure could be made,” Chief Fuentes said.
He added that the permanent coordinationand information exchange among police forces, allows authorities to learn about the methods criminal gangs use in South America and the ways in which they operate. “As such, the agreements that we maintain through our institution’sInternational Cooperation Department with police such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States are very important […]. Our police attachés stationed in Washington are linked with this force not only for the purpose of seizing narcotics, but also for money laundering and other crimes,” he said.
In late June, PDI Director General Sergio Muñoz and FBI Director Christopher Wray signed an agreement in Santiago, Chile, to advance knowledge of investigative techniques and methods to combat transnational organized crime, the PDI said. This agreement deepens the relationship between both entities, which originated in the 1940s, when they jointly investigated Nazi espionage networks operating in Chile.