Paraguayan Authorities Conduct Record Cocaine Seizure

Paraguayan Authorities Conduct Record Cocaine Seizure

By Roberto López Dubois/Diálogo
September 15, 2021

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In late July, the Paraguayan National Police made the largest cocaine seizure in the South American country with the discovery of more than 3 tons of the drug in the Asunción Metropolitan Area, the state-run news outlet Agencia de Información Paraguaya said in a statement.

Authorities seized a total of 3,415 kilograms of cocaine that criminals had distributed among some 160 bags and stored inside a warehouse in Fernando de la Mora city, Chief Commissioner Osvaldo Alejandro Ávalos, head of the Paraguayan National Police Antinarcotics Department, told Diálogo.

“The substances were hidden […], camouflaged inside bags of organic sugar, to be exported to Africa,” Commissioner Ávalos said.

After months of intelligence work, authorities launched an operation that resulted in the record seizure. Investigations suggest that the drug likely entered Paraguay by air, from Peru or Bolivia, the Spanish news agency EFE reported.

Authorities arrested Paraguayan businessman Juan José Dubini Franco and his son Juan José Dubini Verdún, the warehouse tenants, for their alleged participation in international drug trafficking, the Paraguayan newspaper ABC Color reported. According to EFE, during the raid on the Dubini’s home, authorities found cell phones, computer equipment, and documents related to import shipment, as well as a vehicle with a false-bottom that was allegedly used to transport the drugs.

“This operation […] demonstrated that transnational criminal organizations are likely using Paraguay as a transit country, taking advantage of the international market accessed by national export products, in addition to the vulnerable control system, to bring cocaine into the country (by air and land), as well as out of the country (by land and sea), due to the lack of technological equipment to strengthen controls,” Commissioner Ávalos said.

According to InSight Crime, an international organization dedicated to analyzing organized crime in Latin America, Paraguay has become one of the main cocaine exporters to Europe and Africa. For many years, Paraguay served as a transit point for cocaine to Brazil, from where drug shipments departed for European ports. However, with the increase of controls in Brazilian ports, narcotraffickers sought new routes, “especially those in countries that are not cocaine producers or maritime transport hubs. Paraguay fits into that category,” InSight Crime reported.

After the record seizure, Paraguayan Minister of the Interior Arnaldo Giuzzio highlighted the importance of strengthening controls to prevent drugs from entering the country. “We urgently need to improve our air space and the control with scanners and technology in public and private spaces,” he said at a press conference, EFE reported.

From January to July 2021, the National Police seized 5,936 kg of cocaine, including the mega shipment of drug. In 2020, authorities seized a total of 3,423 kg of cocaine.