Sebastián Marset is Uruguay’s most famous drug trafficker and the leader of an international network known as the First Uruguayan Cartel (Primer Cartel Uruguayo – PCU).
Marset has ties with foreign criminal groups, including Paraguay’s Insfrán Clan, Brazil’s First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC), and Italy’s ‘Ndrangheta. Though mainly associated with drug trafficking and money laundering, Marset has also been connected to several murders, including the 2022 assassination of Paraguayan anti-mafia prosecutor Marcelo Pecci.
Marset’s earliest known ties to the drug trade stretch back to 2012, when he received a massive shipment of marijuana flown to Uruguay by Juan Domingo Viveros Cartes, the uncle of Paraguay’s ex-President Horacio Cartes. Marset was arrested for his involvement in another shipment in 2013 and sent to Uruguay’s Libertad prison, one of Uruguay’s deadliest prisons, according to a study by the University of the Republic of Uruguay.
Marset spent five years in Libertad, where he allegedly began to build connections with members of PCC. Upon his release in 2018, he began traveling the region and building contacts. He made his first trip to Bolivia in August 2018.
In 2019, Marset established his base in Paraguay where he built connections with the Insfrán Clan and set up businesses, such as Total Cars, which he used to launder his drug money. During his time in Paraguay, Marset also pursued legitimate ventures, including concert promotion and music production. In April 2021, he signed as a player with the local football club, Deportivo Capiatá.
Marset left Paraguay on June 7, 2021, to increase his international contacts in this trafficking network, according to Paraguayan newspaper ABC Color. In October 2021, he was detained in Dubai for traveling under a fake Paraguayan passport. Despite warnings from Uruguay’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, the Uruguayan government rushed a new passport for Marset. Dubai released him and Marset disappeared.
The government’s approval and rushed delivery of Marset’s passport became a massive scandal in Uruguay, leading numerous high-level officials to resign.
Paraguay launched an investigation in early 2022 dubbed Operation A Ultranza PY, bringing criminal charges against Marset and 23 others, and arresting eight individuals, including Alberto Koube Ayala, a key partner who helped Marset launder his money.
Marset likely returned to Bolivia in September 2022, where he settled down in Santa Cruz, according to Bolivian news outlet El Deber. He bought a mansion, an arsenal of firearms, and part of the Leones de El Torno soccer club, where he was also a player.
In July 2023, Bolivian authorities raided Marset’s Santa Cruz mansion. They seized a cache of weapons, numerous vehicles, and several exotic animals. But Marset evaded capture with his family. His current whereabouts are unknown.
Marset’s early criminal career involved receiving large shipments of marijuana in Uruguay. But after being released from prison in 2018, Marset has primarily dedicated himself to coordinating shipments of cocaine from Bolivia, through Paraguay, and then to Europe.
With his profits from the drug trade, Marset has had to launder an extensive amount of money, which he has done through seemingly legitimate businesses and currency exchanges.
Beyond his involvement in trafficking and laundering, Marset has been linked to murders, including the high-profile assassination of Paraguayan prosecutor Marcelo Pecci.
Despite managing intercontinental criminal networks, Marset does not lead a structured group or control any territory. He has been most active in Paraguay and Bolivia. The scandal surrounding his passport suggests he may wield influence with elements of Uruguay’s government.
Through allies, such as the PCC and ‘Ndrangheta, Marset is able to move cocaine to Europe. His trip to Dubai in 2021 aimed to bolster his connections in the Middle East, according to media reports, though the success of those efforts is unclear.
Allies and Enemies
Marset’s closest ally is Paraguay’s Insfrán Clan, with whom he launders money, traffics cocaine, and allegedly assassinates rivals. With entrenched links to the highest levels of Paraguayan politics, the Insfrán Clan was likely key in helping Marset build his network inside the country.
Marset has ties to the PCC and ‘Ndrangheta who deal with the latter stages of the cocaine pipeline from South America to Europe. While Marset’s cocaine shipments move from Bolivia to Paraguay and then to South America’s Atlantic ports, the PCC and ‘Ndrangheta control the shipping and distribution of cocaine in Europe.
In all of these relationships, Marset coordinates between groups and handles logistics.
Marset’s future is unclear following the Bolivian authorities’ July 2023 raid on his Santa Cruz mansion. He is currently on the run and his ability to continue coordinating shipments is unknown. Though this is not his first close call with authorities, he was previously able to set up bases in Paraguay and Bolivia which allowed him to conduct his trafficking operation, build his networks, and set up fronts to launder money. It is uncertain if he will be able to do so again with mounting pressure from authorities in several countries.
Operation A Ultranza PY resulted in a number of Marset’s partners being arrested, including the head of the Insfrán Clan, Miguel Insfrán, alias “Tío Rico.” Marset’s brother-in-law, Sebastián Alberti Rossi, is supposedly one of the first members of Marset’s clan to have traveled to Bolivia to make criminal contacts. He turned himself in to Uruguayan authorities on October 26, 2023. It is rumored that other members of Marset’s clan, and perhaps even Marset himself, are negotiating their surrender to Uruguayan authorities.
What are your thoughts?
Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.
We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.