Police in Peru have arrested a former Supreme Court judge for his alleged role in a billion-dollar criminal empire, highlighting the network's ability to penetrate the highest levels of government.
Peru's Attorney General's Office and National Police arrested former Supreme Court Judge Robinson Gonzales for allegedly forming part of the land theft and money laundering network run by businessman Rodolfo Orellana, reported El Comercio. Authorities have also arrested a former police colonel and seven other suspects as part of the same operation.
Congressman Vicente Zeballos, who is heading a special commission in charge of investigating Orellana's network, said Gonzales has admitted that Orellana assigned him specific legal tasks and that he received a monthly salary in compensation. Zeballos added that Gonzales began working for Orellana after he was dismissed as a Supreme Court judge in 2011 for making questionable rulings in corruption and human rights cases.
Following the most recent arrests, prosecutors stated that 90 percent of Orellana's network has now been dismantled, reported Peru21.
InSight Crime Analysis
While it appears Gonzales only began working for Orellana after he left the bench, there is ample evidence suggesting Orellana's network relied on high-level contacts to operate with impunity for over a decade. Zeballos has previously linked two congressmen to the Orellana criminal structure. Orellana's ex-wife and alleged collaborator, Elna Ramos Gallegos, reportedly worked in the office of former President Alejandro Toledo, who prosecutors have called in for questioning because he allegedly visited Orellano's criminal headquarters. What's more, 200 police officers were suspended last September after they were placed under investigation for alleged ties to the Orellana network.
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The type of crime Orellana allegedly committed provides another indication that his network received political protection, since land theft is frequently facilitated by corrupt officials who falsify property titles and tamper with property registries. Orellana is believed to have unlawfully obtained and resold public and private land, and to have created around 50 front companies to launder the illicit proceeds.
Orellana was one of Peru's most wanted until his capture last November, and had operated his criminal network since 2002, according to Peru's Attorney General's Office. Just a few weeks after his arrest, authorities seized 17 properties belonging to Orellana valued at over $1 billion dollars.