The number of investigations into transportation company managers accused of collaborating with extortion rings has more than doubled in north Peru's Lambayeque region since last year, say prosecutors, bringing to light a lesser-known aspect of a well-documented regional criminal activity.
Carmen Miranda Vidaurre, head of the Lambayeque Prosecutors Council, said that this year 33 taxi and minibus companies and their managers are under investigation for charging fees to their employees in order to make payments to criminal groups running extortion rackets. In return for collecting the payments, the managers allegedly received a cut of the profits. Vidaurre noted that these same managers are also filing extortion complaints, reported RPP.
According to regional prosecutor Juan Carrasco Millones, there were only 15 managers investigated in 2012. Carrasco said that there are 136 reports of extortion being investigated so far in 2013, and that five extortion rings have been dismantled.
Notably, Carrasco has been accused by Peru's anti-extortion police division of failing to do enough to properly investigate extortion cases.
InSight Crime Analysis
Extortion has been an ongoing problem in Lambayeque, where Aurelio Angeles Bonilla, alias "Viejo Paco", who was arrested in December 2012, formerly led a group of extortionists allegedly responsible for dozens of murders and kidnappings.
As in Lambayeque, extortion of the transport sector is common in other Latin American countries such as Honduras, Guatemala, and Colombia, and has resulted in numerous homicides. However, it is less common to hear about how the managers of transport companies may be complicit in these extortion schemes. Some managers may sell intelligence about rival bus companies to extortion rings, in order to pressure the rival company to downsize and thus allow their competitors to move in and pick up the profits. Such scenarios are not unheard of in the region.
In many cases, extortionists directly charge the drivers, a practice which led Guatemala to implement a cashless bus system. Meanwhile, in Honduras, extortion has caused 17,000 small companies to shut down in the past year.