High ranking members of the Dominican Republic security forces have been arrested for arms trafficking in a case that reveals how corrupt networks of officials allegedly use US gun suppliers and false documents to skirt the country's gun control regulations.
On January 27, the Dominican authorities arrested seven officials from the Ministry of Defense’s War Materials Department on charges of illegally importing 220 weapons into the country for sale to the public, the Associated Press reported.
One police officer and six military officials were detained, among them General Bienvenido Cordero Batista, who until recently was the head of the department, the department's arms deposit manager and the official in charge of processing weapon possession permits, El Caribe reported. The military officials allegedly falsified Ministry of Defense documents to import the weapons then passed them on for sale a private store owned by an army coronel.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Dominican Republic
Suspicions over the network first came to light in August last year, when several members of the ring were questioned after US authorities had provided their Dominican counterparts with a list of weapons they believed had been purchased legally in the United States then trafficked into the Dominican Republic, Acento reported. The US investigations began after authorities detained a woman illegally transporting 12 firearms into the country from the United States.
InSight Crime Analysis
Corrupt security forces are a major source of illegal arms throughout the region, and similar cases have been exposed in numerous countries, including El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia.
Sourcing arms from the United States is also common in the world of Latin American arms trafficking, as lax restrictions, particularly over purchasing high caliber assault weapons, has seen criminal groups buy arms legally through straw buyers in the United States then traffic them around the region.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Arms Trafficking
What is less common is a combination of the two methods, yet this is not the first such case in the Dominican Republic; one of the largest arms trafficking networks ever discovered in the country allegedly included a former police lieutenant, and similarly operated by sourcing US weapons and falsifying official documents.
The reason for this may be found in the Dominican Republic's gun control regulation introduced in 2006, which banned imports of all firearms for trade purposes. As is common with organized crime, it appears closing off one supply source has driven trafficking networks to seek out new supplies from countries where such restrictions are largely absent.
Nevertheless, the Dominican government is looking to implement a number of initiatives to further reduce public access to weapons in a country where average rate of homicides by firearm was a troubling 17.8 per 100,000 between 2007 and 2012, according to the Small Arms Survey.