Nearly two dozen police officers in Paraguay are accused of protecting a transnational drug smuggling ring led by a Brazilian trafficker, providing renewed evidence of the profound corruption within the country’s security forces.
The 21 officers arrested on October 28 are alleged to have received bribes in exchange for allowing suspected trafficker Levi Adriani Felicio to move drugs into neighboring Brazil, ABC Color reported.
The officers, who had all been stationed in Paraguay’s northern Amambay department along the Brazil border, also provided classified information to Adriani Felicio, who was arrested on October 14 in Paraguay’s capital of Asunción, according to the country's Attorney General’s Office.
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Notes found during Adriani Felicio’s arrest suggest that the officers could have received up to $5,000 a month in exchange for their services.
Authorities said Adriani Felicio had operated in Amambay since 2014 and maintained contacts with powerful Brazilian crime groups, such as the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC), and the Red Command (Comando Vermelho – CV). He has since been extradited to Brazil.
InSight Crime Analysis
Corruption among Paraguay police is widespread in areas bordering Brazil, where drug trafficking is omnipresent and criminal networks require police assistance to thwart operations into their activities.
The arrested officers worked in Amambay “in police posts that were close to marijuana plantations,” Marco Alcaraz, the deputy general prosecutor of the Attorney General’s Office anti-narcotics branch (Unidad Especializada en la Lucha Contra el Narcotráfico), told InSight Crime.
Information released by the Attorney General's Office details how Adriani Felicio used his vast network of contacts within the police to find out when and where raids on drug plantations and shipments would take place. He also relied on high-ranking officers to transfer cooperative police agents to outposts close to marijuana plantations, release detained associates and seized drug shipments, and make sure that any officer getting too close to his illicit activities was relocated elsewhere.
Back in January 2019, the country’s former Interior Minister recognized that police corruption affects “an important percentage” of the force.
And just over a month ago, in September, ten police officers with links to the drug trade were arrested in a series of raids carried out by Paraguayan authorities, who suspect the agents passed on confidential information to traffickers operating in the Concepción and Amambay departments, helping to ensure the safe passage of drug shipments for fees of up to $200,000.
According to Alcaraz, there is no simple explanation for the police’s susceptibility to corruption, which he attributes to a range of factors including low salaries, low morale, and the inability of authorities in Asunción to effectively control police in areas far from the capital.
What’s certain is that within the police, corruption is the norm. “In all cases involving a criminal structure [investigated by the Attorney General’s Office], there is always a member of the police force involved,” Alcaraz told InSight Crime.