The Dominican Republic has arrested seven Czech suspected gang members, illustrating the Caribbean country's growing importance as a hub for transnational organized crime.
On October 28, the Dominican Republic's National Police Director Jose A. Polanco Gomez announced that officials had arrested seven members of a Czech gang, who were wanted in their home country on charges of money laundering and armed robbery, among other crimes. Polanco said that the seven suspects are part of a larger group of around 20, who came to the country to evade the Czech authorities.
Radio Prague reported that many of the men had put down roots in the Caribbean country, adopting false identities and establishing businesses there. One of the suspects had been hiding out in the country since 2003.
All seven have been deported back to the Czech Republic.
InSight Crime Analysis
Czech officials say that the investigation began as an attempt to locate a member of a powerful mafia group. When they found him, they discovered that there was an entire "community" of Czech criminals operating in the north of the Dominican Republic, according to Radio Prague.
The case provides the latest evidence that the country could be joining Ecuador and Venezuela as an important staging point for European transnational organized criminal groups. The Dominican Republic's top anti-narcotics official, Marino Castillo, has repeatedly warned about the growing influence of foreign criminal organizations in the country, and there is reason to believe the Italian and Russian mafias are deepening their activities there.
The draw of the Caribbean country is clear. It has long served as a transit point for cocaine shipments bound for the United States, and officials have proven to be easily corrupted. With analysts predicting a resurgence in Caribbean cocaine traffic, Dominican Republic may be more attractive than ever to organized crime.