HomeNewsBriefColombia Criminal Groups Distribute Cigarettes Linked to New Paraguay President
BRIEF

Colombia Criminal Groups Distribute Cigarettes Linked to New Paraguay President

COLOMBIA / 24 JUN 2013 BY CHARLES PARKINSON EN

Criminal groups in Colombia are responsible for the distribution of millions of illegal cigarettes tied to Paraguay President-elect Horacio Cartes, highlighting the dubious business links which have made his rise to power so controversial.

According to an investigation carried out by El Tiempo, a company controlled by Cartes is responsible for producing 2.24 million cigarettes which are illegally distributed in Colombia, representing a 14 percent domestic market share.

The investigation revealed that cigarettes produced in the Tabacalera del Este factory in Paraguay and destined for export via the Caribbean islands of Aruba and Curacao actually end up being smuggled throughout Colombia.

According to Colombia’s tax and customs police (Polfa), the distribution is run through criminal networks such as the Oficina de Envigado and the Urabeños, reported El Tiempo.

The cigarettes, including brands such as “Ibiza” and “Marine,” fail to comply with regional packaging requirements and avoid tax. In Colombia they arrive legally to a special customs zone in the northern region of La Guajira, but many end up being smuggled to surrounding regions. Representatives from Cartes’ factory denied any knowledge or wrongdoing related to the case.

According to Colombia’s tax and customs authority (DIAN), illegal cigarettes avoid $16 million in tax each year.

InSight Crime Analysis

This is not the first time cigarettes from Cartes’ factory have come under scrutiny. In 2004 legal proceedings were undertaken in Brazil to combat their smuggling in the tri-border area with Paraguay and Argentina. Cartes was himself named in those proceedings as being linked to illegal funds entering Brazil.

Meanwhile, according to El Tiempo, a large proportion of the five million illegal packs seized last year by Colombian customs authorities were brands produced by Cartes’ company.

Furthermore, this latest investigation found that the cigarettes were ordered by companies connected to the Aruba-based Mansur family, which has been linked to high-profile cigarette smuggling and seen family members indicted in the US on money laundering charges.

These latest revelations are just more in a long line of questionable business links and activity linked to Cartes. The man due to assume the Paraguayan presidency in August, following his election in April, has previously been a target of investigations by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), as revealed in cables released by Wikileaks. He controls a major bank which US authorities identified as the keystone in a regional money laundering operation.

Cartes has also been tied to gold smuggling, money laundering and financing illegal groups, while in 2000 a light aircraft containing 343 kilograms of cannabis and 20 kilograms of cocaine was seized  by Paraguayan police after it landed on a farm he owns.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BRAZIL / 28 FEB 2014

Reporters Without Borders' latest ranking of world press freedom highlights how the impact of organized crime on Latin American media…

COLOMBIA / 29 SEP 2017

Dissidents of Colombia's FARC guerrilla group have suffered their most significant blow to date in a military operation that lead…

BRAZIL / 12 FEB 2020

Over the last few years, the PCC’s continued expansion into Paraguay has seen Brazil's most powerful criminal group leave behind…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.

THE ORGANIZATION

Combating Environmental Crime in Colombia

15 JUN 2021

InSight Crime presented findings from an investigation into the main criminal activities fueling environmental destruction in Colombia.