Ecuador’s Operation Chameleon

October 29, 2018 Crime , OPINION/NEWS , OTHER , South America

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Ricardo Swire



International firearms and ammunition sales records assist law enforcement in untangling the multi-faceted global illegal firearm market. When a gun is part of a criminal investigation, local agencies contact the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) to trace such weapons. By utilizing eTrace software ATF agents can provide information about gun movements through the supply chain and first retail purchase.


On October 9, 2018 the Antidelincuencial intelligence Unit (UIAD) conducted the first phase of Operation Chameleon in Quininde, Esmeraldas. A taxi was intercepted and inside was rice packages that contained 2,500 9mm cartridges used by revolvers or pistols. On August 9, 2018 another segment of Operation Chameleon was conducted in Bourbon, where 5.56mm ammunition was found inside a warehouse. The bullets are used in semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle variants.


Worldwide, internal security professionals analyze data patterns to identify potential traffickers and provide insight of how illegal guns circulate. On October 17, 2018 Ecuador’s Prosecutor Office, with assistance from National Police officers, launched another chapter of Operation Chameleon. The focus was a series of suspicious military activities that involved the supply of firearms and ammunition to former FARC fighters known as the “ex-FARC Mafia.” Seven active duty soldiers and one civil engineer were detained regarding such shipments.


Military bases in Guayas, Esmeraldas, Loja, Santo Domingo and Pichincha provinces, identified as main areas where stolen weapons and ammunition were hidden among toilet paper and rice supplies. Operation Chameleon’s UIAD cyber investigators analysed La Recoleta Military Complex’s computer system. Such clandestine activity in Ecuador’s key border region spotlighted how domestic criminal organizations corrupt and influence soldiers.


Ongoing violence along the Colombia/Ecuador border indicates that FARC rebels are attempting to control this strategic border region, in their efforts to solidify dominance over the cross-border drugs trade. Operation Chameleon taskforce members discovered that since 2016 the underworld character “Guacho” and his criminal network received firearms, part of supplies registered to the capital Quito’s military base supplies, from rogue soldiers.


Smuggled firearms were concealed in parcels, secretly transported aboard interprovincial busses and private vehicles, to avoid law enforcement checkpoints. The weapons were delivered to Borbón, in coastal province Esmeraldas, near the Colombian border. On arrival in Quito the stolen guns were sold. The taskforce arrested Corporals of the Army and one Sergeant assigned to military bases in Huancavilca, Taura, Sangolquí-Pichincha and Loja. The soldiers were transported by helicopters and planes to Esmeralds, where one detainee belonged to the Marine Infantry Battalion.





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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