Global News

This article first appeared on CNN Español on September 9, 2021.

A Dominican Republic government official is among those detained by authorities on Wednesday during the so-called Operation Falcon, an investigation into a network accused of drug trafficking and money laundering, according to the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Authorities identified the official as Juan Maldonado Castro, reported to the Attorney General’s Office. Maldonado Castro is the head of the Dirección General Comunidad Digna, a government institution that works to improve the living conditions of the most vulnerable groups, and was a deputy for the province of El Seibo between 2006 and 2010.

His wife, Faustina Guerrero Cabrera, is currently a deputy for El Seibo for the ruling Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM). CNN tried to contact the deputy, but she did not attend the Lower House on Thursday.

Just hours after Maldonado Castro’s arrest, the president of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader, announced that he had suspended him from his post and reiterated that in the country “there are no more sacred cows”. As of this Thursday, CNN has not been able to make contact with Maldonado or his legal representatives.

“I promised this country that there would be no impunity, I promised that in this country there would be a Public Prosecutor who would act no matter who falls, and that is what is being exercised in this country,” said the president.

On the other hand, the Public Ministry indicated that it is also investigating Héctor Darío Féliz Féliz, deputy of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) for the province of Pedernales, for allegedly helping one of those arrested in the operation to evade justice.

Feliz said Thursday that he has nothing to hide and that “every chelito that has entered my account, I have the way to prove it”.

“The referred legislator is under investigation and was not arrested in the early hours of this morning for the sole reason that he has (parliamentary) immunity and this immunity prevents the Public Ministry from proceeding with the arrest,” said Yeni Berenice, director-general of Prosecution of the Public Ministry.

Féliz said that he is willing to waive his immunity so that the case can be clarified and the investigation can be completed.

Berenice informed that the case will be heard in the Supreme Court of Justice due to his capacity as a legislator.

The Attorney General’s Office detailed that among the 11 detainees there are several linked to crimes in the United States and requested for extradition.

The authorities informed that they carried out more than 80 raids between Santo Domingo and Santiago. They pointed out that the investigation took months and had the international cooperation of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the United States.

The Attorney General’s Office indicated Thursday that it is an open investigation and did not rule out that more people may be arrested.

The Directorate General of Prosecution of the Public Ministry said that those involved in the dismantled drug trafficking network created a “powerful structure of organized crime, which has operated systematically and under a typical scheme of transnational criminal organizations, linked to mega drug trafficking operations that had as a center of command, control, and laundering of assets in the province of Santiago”.

The authorities indicated that the alleged network operated in the north of the Dominican Republic, especially in the city of Santiago, but with ramifications in the eastern region of the country.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office claims that according to its investigations, those involved were dedicated to laundering money as a result of and illicit profit from moving large shipments of drugs coming from South America, especially from Colombia and Venezuela, to the Dominican Republic, to take them to the continental United States, Puerto Rico and Europe, “using speedboats, sport boats (double bottom), fishing boats and containers”.

Dominican laws indicate that the detainees must be presented before a judge within 48 hours of their arrest for the hearing of coercive measures.