A couple convicted of money laundering are set to be the first members of Salvadoran drug trafficking group the Perrones to have their assets seized, as authorities step up their campaign against one of El Salvador's premier criminal organizations.
An El Salvador court has approved a request to seize $122,000 confiscated in a 2007 raid on properties belonging Domingo Saravia and his wife Carmelina Bonilla, who were convicted of money laundering in December last year, reported El Mundo.
The two were found guilty of laundering over $8 million. The Attorney General's Office has linked Domingo Savaria to crime group the Perrones, an organization based in eastern El Salvador that moves contraband and drugs northwards on behalf of larger criminal organizations.
More of the Saravias' assets may yet be seized, as under Salvadoran law the government may seize an amount equal to the value of money they are convicted of laundering.
InSight Crime Analysis
Seizing assets can be a powerful weapon in dismantling firmly established criminal networks, although as demonstrated by this case -- which began in 2007 -- it can also be a lengthy and difficult legal process. Nevertheless, the ruling marks a landmark in the Salvadoran authorities' campaign against the Perrones, which has seen almost as many setbacks as advances.
The Perrones are one of the country's most powerful criminal groups and are believed to be involved in a broad range of criminal activities, from trafficking drugs and people to money laundering. Efforts to tackle the network have seen numerous arrests, but few convictions as leading members have managed to escape punishment time and again through legal maneuverings.
SEE ALSO: Perrones Profile
In one recent example, the money laundering trial of Daniel Quezada Fernandez -- a hotel businessman linked to the Perrones -- was suspended earlier this month, as prosecutors were still missing key parts of their case. In the past, Quezada, who is believed to be one of the leading figures in the network, has already seen a three year prison sentence on drug charges reduced to community service.
Despite their ability to avoid justice, the last year has left the Perrones weakened. In addition to the conviction of the Saravias and the ongoing case against Quezada, the group saw 29 associates arrested in July last year and perhaps most importantly, the man recognized as the head of the organization, Jose Natividad Luna Pereira, alias "Chepe Luna," was murdered in June.