A former army captain of Ecuador, accused of running a major drug trafficking network with links to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel, has been captured.
Telmo Castro, described by Interior Minister Jose Serrano as "the most wanted drug trafficker, with links to the majority of cases that have happened in this country," was arrested in Ecuador on June 7, following eight months of surveillance and the discovery of a light aircraft believed to have been used to smuggle drugs. During the capture police seized 300 kilos of drugs and grenades, reported the newspaper El Comercio.
The plane was the fifth to be detected since May last year, all linked to the Sinaloa Cartel and Castro, reported the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. The first, which crashed in the province of Manabi, had $1.4 million on board. According to a police source who spoke to El Comercio, the pilots were security staff for Mexican cartel leaders.
Castro is accused of directing drug shipments from ports in Manta and Jaramijo, in the province of Manabi, as well as Puerto Bolivar in El Oro province, Guayaquil in Guayas province, and the Galapagos Islands. He was originally arrested in 2009 during an operation in which 8.4 tons of drugs were confiscated. He was sentenced to two years in prison but negotiated a 49 percent reduction in his sentence, El Comercio reported.
InSight Crime Analysis
While Ecuador's cocaine trade has traditionally been controlled by Colombian groups, it has seen increasing involvement from Mexican groups in recent years, primarily the Sinaloa Cartel, as illustrated by various captures. According to police sources cited by El Comercio, the Sinaloa Cartel has been operating in Ecuador for three years, though previous reports suggest it may have a longer history in the country.
The increased presence of international criminal organizations is believed to be spurring growth in Ecuador's domestic drugs and money laundering industries.