In early September, Paraguayan and Brazilian security forces dismantled one of the most powerful narcotrafficking and money laundering networks in the region, the Paraguayan Secretariat for the Prevention of Money or Asset Laundering (SEPRELAD, in Spanish) said in a statement. It is the García Morínigo clan, “a family scheme that managed to amass colossal economic power in both countries from crime,” the institution said.
In an interview with Radio Nacional del Paraguay, Arnaldo Giuzzio, minister of the Paraguayan National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD, in Spanish), described the García Morínigo clan as one of the region’s largest narcotrafficking rings that controlled a large part of the cocaine market between Paraguay and Brazil.
According to Giuzzio, the criminals carried out money laundering activities through currency exchange offices and other businesses, such as construction, real estate, and luxury car dealerships. “They owned very important buildings, vehicles, livestock ranches; in other words, there is a lot,” Giuzzio said. “What they did was use the Paraguayan platform to launder the dirty money from narcotrafficking.”
On September 11, as part of Operation Status, authorities carried out 15 simultaneous raids on luxury properties that belonged to this clan in the Paraguayan city of Pedro Juan Caballero, on the border with Brazil. In Brazil, the Federal Police carried out about 42 raids in the states of Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and Paraná, SEPRELAD said.
The raids in both countries caused economic losses for the clan in excess of $42 million in real estate alone, to which is added the seizure of a luxury fleet including 36 vehicles and two vessels, among others, SEPRELAD indicated.
Authorities arrested the following clan members in Pedro Juan Caballero: Brazilian nationals Emidio Morínigo Ximénez (clan leader) and his sons, Jeferson García Morínigo and Kleber García Morínigo (all three were deported to Brazil); and Julio Cesar Duarte, from Paraguay.
According to the Paraguayan newspaper ABC Color, Operation Status began in 2014 when the Brazilian Federal Police seized the criminal group’s first shipments of cocaine and captured some of the traffickers involved with the clan. Intelligence work from Brazilian authorities helped make the connection with Paraguay, upon realizing that the criminals received financial aid in prison from a currency exchange office in Pedro Juan Caballero owned by Duarte, the newspaper reported.
“In the history of operations against organized crime, this investigation stands out as the most important at the international level between Paraguay and Brazil, not only because of its outstanding results, but also because of the combined participation of the National Anti-Drug Secretariat, the Office of the Attorney General, and the Brazilian Federal Police from the earliest stages in intelligence operations, with the same level of responsibilities,” SEPRELAD said in the statement.