A prominent businessman who had been linked to drug trafficking was gunned down by a group of heavily armed men in eastern Paraguay, which may be part of an ongoing criminal dispute over the region's illicit drug trade.
On June 15, at least 10 men wielding rifles and a .50 caliber machine gun unloaded 200 rounds on a vehicle driving on a public road in Paraguay's eastern border city of Pedro Juan Caballero, reported La Nación. The vehicle was armored, but it was no match for the heavy fire. Businessman Jorge Rafaat Toumani was killed in the ambush and five others were injured, according to Ultima Hora.
The aggressors made off on foot, leaving behind the machine gun, ammunition and bulletproof vests, reported EFE. (See image below) Paraguay's Interior Minister, Francisco de Vargas, said preliminary investigations suggest the Brazilian gang First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital - PCC) was responsible for the attack, although he added that further evidence would be needed to confirm this hypothesis.
A Brazilian national, Rafaat Toumani faced drug trafficking and money laundering charges in his home country in 2004, according to ABC Color. He was also once called the "face of drug trafficking" by Luis Rojas, the head of Paraguay's National Anti-Drug Secretariat (SENAD).
Meanwhile, Roberto Acevedo, a senator from Amambay department where Pedro Juan Caballero is located, has accused Rafaat Toumani of ordering an assassination attempt against him in 2010.
Rafaat Toumani was also a well-known businessman who reportedly told local media that he owned six tire companies in Pedro Juan Caballero that helped generate some 600 jobs. He denied the accusations by Acevedo, saying the senator wanted him killed.
(Photo c/o La Nacion)
InSight Crime Analysis
Rafaat Toumani's murky ties to drug trafficking, along with the dramatic nature of the attack and the potential involvement of the PCC, suggest his death may be part of an ongoing battle over drug routes in Pedro Juan Caballero. In April, ABC Color reported authorities were fearful that a "war" was breaking out between the PCC and other drug gangs along the Paraguay-Brazil frontier.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Paraguay
The PCC has an active presence in eastern Paraguay, which is coveted territory for criminal groups because it is the epicenter of marijuana production in the country. Paraguay is the largest marijuana producer in South America, with much of the product ending up in neighboring Brazil after crossing a largely unregulated border, although the country also feeds consumer markets in Argentina and Chile.
The Paraguay-Brazil border area has long been hotly contested by Brazilian criminal groups operating on the Paraguayan side of the border. A spate of killings in Pedro Juan Caballero in early 2014 were linked to a dispute between two Brazilian criminal bosses. In March of that same year, Rojas admitted that two powerful Brazilian gangs, the Red Command and Amigos dos Amigos, had joined the PCC in Pedro Juan Caballero.