Falcon Operation brings to the open ties between drug trafficking and legislators

The Attorney General Office and its Public Prosecutors division (PGR) announced on 12 September 2021 that several legislators are being investigated as part of the major Falcon Operation drug and money laundering bust. The legislators have special immunity and their cases will be heard by the Supreme Court of Justice.

Already under investigation is Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) legislator for Pedernales, Hector Dario Feliz. Prosecutors say he assisted suspended government officer Juan Maldonado Castro, a four-term former deputy for the PRD, who in turn is accused of being part of the network. Feliz is accused of having received a million from a staff of accused drug trafficker Juan Jose de la Cruz Morales. The Public Prosecutor’s Office revealed that Victor Elpidio Altagracia Paulino Herrera (El Gordo), who was the chauffeur of former deputy Juan Maldonado Castro, on 29 May 2021 had with him an identification of the Chamber of Deputies. Investigations reveal that Paulino Herrera also served as the personal accountant for Juan Jose de la Cruz Morales, who now is sought in the case.

The Public Ministry accuses Santiago’s Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) deputy Nelson Marmolejos Gil of receiving financing for his political campaign from drug trafficking sources. The prosecutors are investigating the injection of RD$9 million made by Erick Randhiel Mosquea Polanco in the Marmolejos Gil campaign and that of RD$550,000 made by Lenin Torres Bueno. The authorities are on the trial of Mosquea Polanco, now a fugitive of justice.

Adjunct prosecutor Yeni Berenice Reynoso, who is the lead investigator for the PGR, says that soon they will reveal the names of other legislators that have ties to the Falcon Operation drug trafficking network. She said a judge has authorized postponing for 17 September the presenting of the charges against those arrested for the Falcon Operation. Reynoso says the prosecutors will request that the Supreme Court of Justice appoint a special judge for the process given the privileged jurisdiction required in the case when a legislators is accused of a crime.

The Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM) issued a statement backing the measures taken by President Luis Abinader to foster an independent Attorney General Office and prosecution.

The Attorney General Office reports that more than 100 raids have been carried out as part of Falcon Operation, during which more than 100 motor vehicles, more than US$4 million in cash, millions in property and several fuel stations have been seized.

Investigations carried out by the Public Prosecutor’s Office indicate the drug trafficking network was operating before 2012 and that there is evidence that as of 2017 it had increased its operations. Between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, at least 8,500 kilos of cocaine were seized by participants under investigation for Falcon Operation. The PGR says this is evidence of the impunity that prevailed for the criminals to operate.

According to estimates by national and international authorities, the organization’s members laundered large sums of money within a criminal network in which they trafficked hundreds of thousands of kilos of drugs to Europe, the United States and Puerto Rico. The criminal activity generated more than US$500 million in proceeds.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office explained that those involved in the now dismantled drug trafficking network created a “powerful organized crime structure, which has operated systematically and under a scheme typical of transnational criminal organizations, linked to mega drug trafficking operations. The operation would have moved upwards of RD$10 billion in drug trafficking operations. The Drug Enforcement Administration of the United States is assisting the National Drug Control Agency (DNCD) and the Attorney General Office (PGR) in the investigations.

The drug trafficking network members acquired hundreds of properties, firearms, fuel stations, luxury real estate, farms, high-end vehicles, clothes, boats, dealers, discotheques, betting shops and entertainment companies.

The network is also now investigated for having financed political campaigns by directly supporting legislators.

The criminal network had its base of operation in Santiago province with ramifications in the country’s eastern region.

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13 September 2021