QUITO – Ecuadorian police have arrested 14 people allegedly belonging to the country’s most dangerous drug-trafficking network which smuggled narcotics to Guatemala and Panama for transport to Mexico and the United States, officials said.
In a statement on Monday the Interior Ministry said the sweep, codenamed “Pacifico,” involved 22 simultaneous search operations early Monday in the coastal provinces of Guayas, Santa Elena and Manabi in western Ecuador.
Investigators had been working on the case since early last year when operations were launched, leading to the discovery of a weekly shipment of some 400 kilograms (around 882 pounds) of drugs to Guatemala and Panama using speed boats.
The drugs were then delivered to Mexican traffickers who, in turn, shipped them to Mexico and the United States.
The network had recruited policemen, judges and public prosecutors who provided the gang with information regarding anti-drug operations, according to the statement.
A public prosecutor in Manabi and a judge in Los Rios province, were sacked for their alleged implication in the case.
The operation culminated at before dawn on Monday with raids conducted by about 200 officers, in 22 residences – 17 in Manabi, four in Guayas and one in Santa Elena – where the arrests were made.
Among the 14 people detained was the alleged leader of the cartel, identified only as Celso Miguel M.H., and three foreigners, the ministry said.