Uruguay’s most prolific drug trafficker, Sebastian Marset, has strung together an intercontinental network of associates implicated in cocaine trafficking, money laundering, and high-profile assassinations, all while escaping the clutches of authorities in Dubai, Paraguay, and Bolivia.
But the self-proclaimed leader of the First Uruguayan Cartel does not control any territory. In fact, his “cartel” is not even a single structured group.
Instead, Marset’s network is a flexible collection of businesses and family ties that helped him become the biggest trafficker in one of South America’s smallest countries. Here, InSight Crime breaks down its inner workings. Scroll down and click on the parts of the profile you would like to explore.
The Insfrán Clan
Marset’s most powerful connections are inside the Insfrán Clan, a family with ties to both transnational crime groups and the highest level of politics in nearby Paraguay.
Situated between Bolivia, and port countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay, Paraguay became important for transporting drugs to coastal countries, where they could be shipped to Europe.
Following his 2018 release from prison, Marset traveled to Paraguay where he was able to insert himself into the Insfrán Clan’s network. With the Insfráns, Marset could use their connections to build his cocaine trafficking empire, according to Nicolás Centurión, an Uruguay crime observer and analyst at the Latin American Center for Strategic Analysis (Centro Latinoamericano de Análisis Estratégico – CLAE).
Marset used his connections with the Insfrán Clan and others to coordinate multiton shipments of cocaine from Bolivia to South America’s eastern ports, including at least 16 tons moved from Paraguay to Europe. “Sebastián Marset worked more as a manager, as a broker in the area,” said José Amarilla, a consultant on security issues in Paraguay, in an interview with InSight Crime.
As his illicit dealings expanded, Marset began to deal in more steps of the cocaine production chain. Among the many items seized as part of Paraguay’s operations against Marset’s networks are planes. Small private planes are often used to fly cocaine from Bolivia to the bordering Paraguayan province of Chaco. “Chaco, which represents 60% of Paraguayan territory has very little surveillance and yet there is aerial infrastructure that can be used for flying in many of places,” said Amarilla.
From Paraguay, Marset coordinated the movement of cocaine to shipping containers, which follow the Paraná River to the Atlantic Ocean and then Europe. This was the route Paraguayan authorities allege Marset used for a 16-ton cocaine shipment seized in Rotterdam this summer.
At the top of the Insfrán Clan are Miguel Angel Insfrán Galeano, also known as Tío Rico, who is in charge of logistics, and José Alberto Insfrán Galeano, who is a pastor and founder of the Centro de Avivamiento church.
Miguel Insfrán leads the clan and organized the storage, transportation, and distribution of massive shipments of cocaine. He was arrested in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for drug trafficking, money laundering and other crimes, and extradited to Paraguay in May.
Multiple governments suspect Tío Rico of being connected to the May 10, 2022, assassination of Paraguayan prosecutor Marcelo Pecci in Colombia. The accusations claim that Pecci was killed for leading investigations into assassinations and trafficking that lead back to the Insfrán Clan and Marset.
On August 12, 2022, Colombia’s president, Gustavo Petro, tweeted that Sebastián Marset was behind Pecci’s assassination. And earlier this month, one of the suspects accused of coordinating the hit claimed that Pecci’s murder was ordered by Tío Rico and ex-President of Paraguay Horacio Cartes. Cartes’ uncle, Juan Domingo Viveros Cartes, piloted the drug shipment that first landed Marset in jail in 2013.
José Alberto Insfrán Galeano is accused of using his church to launder money made through the Insfrán and Marset clans’ illicit dealings. He is wanted by Paraguayan authorities and Interpol, but was able to re-enter the country without being detained.
José Insfrán and his church are connected to ex-Congressman Juan Carlos Ozorio, who was arrested for money laundering, drug trafficking, and criminal association. Ozorio is accused of laundering money for the Insfrán Clan as president of the San Cristobal Cooperative.
A Family Business
While running global operations, Marset entrusted many of his business activities to close family and friends.
Members of his family are mostly suspected of dealing with the financial side of Marset’s crimes, being linked to money laundering and accused of overseeing payments for drug shipments.
Like many organized crime groups around the world, Marset mainly surrounds himself with family and a few close friends.
This includes his wife, Gianina García Troche. She has a Red Notice from Interpol and is wanted as part of Operation A Ultranza PY, the largest anti-organized crime operation in Paraguay’s history which was conducted with from authorities in Uruguay, the United States and the European Union. García Troche is accused of helping Marset and those in his network launder money from massive cocaine shipments to Europe.
The launderers clean the dirty cash through legitimate businesses associated with the network, such as San Jorge Group, and Total Cars. García Troche opened a bank account using false documents claiming to work as a “transport agent” and deposited $7,500 a month, according to Uruguayan newspaper El País.
Also tied to the Grupo San Jorge is Reina Mercedes Duarte Aguilera, who was arrested in Operation A Ultranza PY in March 2022. She is accused of using the San Jorge Group and other businesses to launder drug money from Marset and the Insfráns’ international deals.
Total Cars is linked to a number of Marset’s connections, including Paraguayan businessman Alberto Koube Ayala. Koube was arrested as part of Operation A Ultranza PY for laundering money through his various businesses. Among those businesses is Tapiracuai S.A, which has done business with the Paraguayan government, selling office supplies and medical instruments. Koube Ayala also owned numerous planes, which are suspected of being used to traffick cocaine from Bolivia.
Gianina García Troche’s brother, Mauro García Troche, is also linked to Total Cars. He is accused of modifying the accounts to launder money and administration of the business. He is wanted by Interpol.
And the husband of Marset’s sister, Sebastian Alberti Rossi, also had a Red Notice from Interpol. He was convicted of murder in Uruguay and incarcerated, but he escaped in 2021 when he was allowed to take out the garbage.
Among Marset’s clan, Alberti Rossi “was one of the first to go to Bolivia and make direct contact with drug traffickers,” said Centruión. On October 26, he turned himself in to Uruguayan authorities and will continue his sentence in La Libertad prison, where Marset allegedly built his contacts with the PCC.
Fellow Uruguayan Federico Ezequiel Santoro Vassallo is alleged to be a close friend and advisor to Marset. Santoro is accused of being in charge of receiving money from drug sales and paying those working in the network. Authorities claim he advised Marset on the best ways to launder money, set up electronic payments, and arranged flights for Marset and Koube, and travel with Marset to Dubai.
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