Paraguayan authorities said that an operation with Brazilian authorities had resulted in the arrest of many former high-ranking military officers in an effort to break up an arms smuggling network that had been transporting weapons from Europe to South America.
Reports show the firearms were sold to middlemen in South America who had ties to Brazilian criminal groups after they arrived. The United States was reportedly used as a conduit for the laundering of funds from the activities.
Paraguayan officials said the probe, which lasted a year, also included the United States Department of Homeland Security.
According to Brazilian officials, Paraguay received about 43,000 pieces of these weapons, valued at around $243 million, over the course of three years of operation under the program.
Among the thirteen individuals taken into custody in Paraguay is the former chief of the military branch responsible for overseeing the country’s Dimabel program, which regulates the import and distribution of guns. Also taken into custody was Gen. Arturo González, who had previously served as head of Paraguay’s air force.
An Argentine businessman’s firm in Asunción, Paraguay’s capital, was importing the guns from factories in Turkey, Slovenia, Croatia, and the Czech Republic. The business reportedly expedited the import clearance process using its Dimabel connections.
Twenty raids in Paraguay and twenty in Brazil resulted in the arrests. Paraguayan officials also reported one raid in Kansas.
According to a statement from Paraguay’s National Anti-Drug Secretariat, the investigation found that military officials had a hand in approving the import of weapons, changing documents to comply with firearms laws, and approving irregular sales for large sums of money.
According to a report, after escaping Alfredo Stroessner’s 35-year dictatorship in 1989, the country’s nascent democracy has been beset by corruption, political turmoil, and persistent economic issues.
Smuggling narcotics and other illicit goods has long been linked to the Triple Frontier area, which is where Paraguay joins Argentina and Brazil.