Circumventing the System

April 9, 2018 Crime , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , OTHER

Reuters photo



Ricardo Swire



The Western Hemisphere’s drug trade is multifaceted and revolves around South American cocaine. Caribbean national intelligence officials, US SOUTHCOM and its Joint Interagency Task Force (JIATF) headquartered in Key West, Florida, credit the Eastern Pacific as the busiest trafficking route. Statistics documented more than sixty-eight percent cocaine movements via the region. Colombian cartels often use human mules that swallow drug pellets, or creatively hide kilos of cocaine in luggage, while travelling on aerial ventures.


Trafficking cartels operate in concert with criminal partners in destination countries. During the period of one year Colombia’s internal security records documented fourteen planes stolen and used to transport cocaine to Central America. The Colombian Air Force (FAC) C95 and SR-560 aircrafts’ onboard tracking systems monitored private Gulfstream jets that transported bulk cocaine consignments regionally. Such narco-planes navigated special aerial routes that bypassed Central America’s radars to secretly arrive in Mexico.


A March 28, 2018 multinational law enforcement operation involving Colombia’s Counter Narcotics Police, Directorate of Criminal Investigation and the National Prosecutor’s Office joined forces with US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents to dismantle an urbane trafficking syndicate managed by Los Urabenos Cartel’s third-in-command. The mission objective included apprehension of two senior Colombian civil aviation employees, who secretly worked for Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel. Co-conspirators “El Viejo” or “The Old,” a Colombian/Mexican dual citizen, along with an American ex-US Navy Warrant Officer, masterminded the complex trafficking network.


Previously El Viejo’s function as a neo-paramilitary organization top boss earned him a 2003 indictment on cocaine trafficking charges, but he was released by a Colombian court. His new syndicate smuggled tons of cocaine from Cali’s Alfonso Bonilla Aragon Airport to Mexico, America and Europe. The captured senior Colombian Air Traffic Controllers and three American associates coordinated cocaine shipments camouflaged inside suitcases and coded packages labelled “sports equipment.” Two of the American traffickers had extradition warrants in the US District of Colombia Court.


The Air Traffic Controllers ensured they worked shifts synchronized with the passage of drug shipments. Los Urabenos Cartel’s third-in-command also contracted couriers who travelled aboard chartered flights, from Colombia’s international airports in Cali and Bogota, with cocaine supplies destined for Europe. The Alfonso Bonilla Aragon Airport’s inbound consignments originated in Colombia’s south-western department of Cauca, an area mostly dominated by rival drug trafficking organization Los Rastrojos Cartel.


El Viejo rented planes from Colombian, Central American and Caribbean companies which transported drug consignments to Mexico. Physical evidence linked one detained trafficker to the Monday January 29th 2018 “Narcojet” law enforcement interception. On that occasion the plane departed Colombia’s El Dorado International Airport in Bogota and followed a flight path to the English terminal of Farnborough. Acting on shared intelligence UK counter narcotics agents seized five hundred kilos of Colombian cocaine after the aircraft’s arrival.





Ricardo Swire - Tuck Magazine

Ricardo Swire

Ricardo Swire is the Principal Consultant at R-L-H Security Consultants & Business Support Services and writes on a number of important issues.

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