Authorities in Peru have seized 17 estates reportedly worth more than $1 billion from Rodolfo Orellana, the incarcerated leader of a massive network dedicated to money laundering and land theft, highlighting the scale of his criminal empire -- which he likely relied on years of political protection to build.
The judicial order to seize the lands and properties belonging to Orellana, alias "El Gordo," came just three weeks after the Peruvian businessman and lawyer was captured in Colombia and deported back to Peru, reported El Comercio.
Meanwhile, authorities have been unable to locate some $100 million thought to be held by Orellana's network, indicating he emptied his bank accounts prior to leaving Peru, reported La Republica.
The money and properties belonging to Orellana are reportedly the result of more than a decade of criminal activities. According to Peru's Attorney General's Office, Orellana's network began operating in 2002, meaning that his activities spanned three presidential administrations, reported El Comercio.
InSight Crime Analysis
Orellana's ability to enjoy 12 years of impunity while amassing astounding sums of money points to the deep penetration of state institutions by his criminal network. According to El Comercio, his political contacts may have reached the highest levels: Orellana's ex-wife, Elna Ramos Gallegos -- who is accused of taking part in the criminal organization -- reportedly worked in the office of former President Alejandro Toledo. Additionally, two congressmen have been linked to Orellana's network and 200 police officers were suspended this past September while under investigation for colluding with Orellana.
However, with the arrests of both Orellana and his right-hand man -- retired police Colonel Benedicto Jimenez -- in the past two months, coupled with the property seizures, it seems Orellana's long-standing political protection is quickly evaporating, and that authorities are determined to target his organization's finances as well.
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Orellana earned his fortune by fraudulently acquiring and reselling public and private properties, while also establishing as many as 50 front companies that were used to launder the illicit proceeds. The criminal group was also reportedly involved in human trafficking and prostitution, and Orellana has alleged ties to Mexican, Colombian, and Italian drug trafficking groups.