The head of the Dominican Republic's anti-narcotics police has been charged with stealing over a ton of cocaine, leading to allegations that the institution is so corrupt it is now one of the country's leading drug dealing operations.
On January 12, Carlos Fernandez Valerio, the head of the country's anti-drug police, known as the DICAN, was charged with stealing 1.2 tons of cocaine. The drug shipments were seized during several police raids but never turned in as evidence.
Also named in the indictment were two prosecutors, a police colonel, a number of low-level police officers, and several civilians, reported El Nuevo Diario.
The scandal first broke in December 2014, when investigations into missing cocaine hauls led to Fernandez's suspension and eventual arrest.
According to reports by El Nacional, Fernandez is believed to have headed a group of at least 21 corrupt officials, who stole drug shipments then either sold them back to transnational drug traffickers or to local drug dealers supplying the Dominican market.
In the wake of the scandal, one Dominican senator labeled the DICAN the country's largest micro-trafficking cartel, while another called for the agency to be dismantled.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Dominican security forces are no stranger to corruption scandals. Both the police and the military have previously been implicated in transnational drug trafficking and micro-trafficking.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of the Dominican Republic
However, such incidents have usually involved low and mid-level officials who were bought off by drug traffickers.
In contrast, the latest scandal involves the very leaders of the agency tasked with halting the flow of drugs through the country, which is a key transit point for South American cocaine shipped into the United States. It also involves corrupt security forces running their own theft and resale operations rather than accepting the bribes of criminal organizations. Given the amount of cocaine involved, the DICAN criminal network would have been raking in significant profits.
If the allegations prove true, then the DICAN would have gone far beyond the typical low-level corruption that pervades security agencies across the region, and may now no longer be fit for its purpose.