By Rafael Andrade/Diálogo
February 07, 2022
In early January 2022, members of Paraguay’s National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD, in Spanish) dismantled an international drug trafficking organization in Operation Navis. Agents carried out six raids in different cities across the country. Authorities arrested at least four people, including gang leader Fernando Enrique Balbuena Acuña, alias Riki or Herrero.
“[Balbuena] was responsible for storing and shipping large quantities of cocaine through the Paraguay-Paraná waterway and then to Europe through the Atlantic,” SENAD said on its Facebook page. The trafficker was in a property in the Eusebio Ayala district, Cordillera department, where agents also found 947 kilograms of cocaine.
“The alleged drug lord directed and coordinated several operators responsible for acquiring volumes of cocaine and storing them in the Cordillera department,” SENAD said in a statement.
The traffickers would then transport the shipments to the main European ports by waterway, according to the Paraguayan newspaper The Nation reported. The drugs came from Peru, Bolivia and Colombia, according to the news portal 1000 reviews reported.
Riki’s capture and the disruption of his scheme is the result of a nearly eight-month investigation by SENAD’s General Intelligence Directorate.
“The closing of this case has been very gratifying, since it has allowed us to know these types of structures that specifically engage in the contamination of containers and that harm our foreign trade”, said the Minister of SENAD, Zully Rolón, in an interview with the Paraguayan television channel. single channel.
During searches in the municipalities of Luque and San Lorenzo, the authorities found suitcases and bags containing traces of cocaine. “This suggests that the organization was also engaged in recruiting ‘mules’ to transport packages of cocaine to Europe inside false bottoms in suitcases,” the Paraguayan newspaper said. ABC reported.
The Paraguayan authorities have not ruled out that this organization may have carried out one of the largest cocaine smuggling operations in the country’s history: two shipments totaling 23 tons which were transported by waterway and seized in the ports of Antwerp, Belgium, and Hamburg, Germany in February 2021.
“Vital cog in the organization”
During the raid in the town of Fernando de la Mora, authorities arrested Víctor Melnyk, a Ukrainian citizen accused of belonging to the gang. According to the Argentinian newspaper The NationMelnyk is a former soldier in a Ukrainian elite corps who authorities arrested in September 2020, after finding him in the trunk of a car, on the border between the Argentine provinces of Corrientes and Entre Ríos.
“This former Ukrainian soldier is a vital cog in the organization because, according to criminal intelligence, he is the one who would make the connection with drug buyers in Europe,” sources from the investigation told the Argentine newspaper. The Nation.