ASUNCION – A congressman, eight police officers and several prosecutors are among the 30 people accused of being part of a major drug ring, the Paraguayan Attorney General’s Office said on Monday.
The reputed leader of the organization is Reinaldo Cabañas, a prominent businessman in Ciudad del Este, Paraguay’s second city. Searches carried out at his properties turned up 22 kilos of cocaine and roughly $800,000 in cash.
The operation acquired political connotations after the accusation against Ulises Quintana, a member of the ruling Colorado Party elected to Congress in April.
The prosecutor in charge of the case, Lorena Ledesma, said Monday at an Asuncion press conference that Quintana had used his official position to facilitate “the system of transfer of drugs and sums of money” by the organization headed by Cabañas.
Therefore, she asked Congress to lift Cabañas’ immunity from prosecution.
Last Friday, Quintana acknowledged that he used several vehicles provided by Cabañas during his election campaign, albeit in the belief that the latter was simply an important businessman in Ciudad del Este, where he managed several motels and other businesses.
Charged alongside Cabañas are his wife and three of his siblings.
The police operation was launched last Thursday after a six-month investigation.
Ledesma said that each of the accused “had a different role” within the organization, which transferred up to $400,000 a week in drug money from Ciudad del Este to Asuncion.
The modus operandi was discovered, Ledesma said, after “an Aug. 28 pursuit in which a vehicle with more than $190,000 was seized” and which led to the accusations against the police officers.
Ledesma announced that the operation “is going to continue.”
The Cabañas case also has tainted President Mario Abdo Benitez, after last Friday a photo went viral on the social networks showing the pair together, allegedly at the presidential residence.