Paraguayan police, in coordination with authorities in Israel and Brazil, took down an organization that was smuggling cocaine to the Middle East and Africa, Paraguay’s Senad counternarcotics agency said Tuesday.
Five people were arrested, but reputed ringleader Juan Carlos Da Rosa remains at large.
Bolivian police have been investigating Da Rosa - a Paraguayan citizen - for drug trafficking and on suspicion of involvement in the 2012 kidnapping of a former senator, Senad said.
The law enforcement operation began Monday night at a bus terminal in Ciudad del Este, on the Brazilian border, where Senad agents arrested a passenger who arrived from Asuncion in possession of an unspecified quantity of cocaine.
Also detained were two men waiting at the terminal for the courier.
The two men planned to escort the courier to the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu, where the drugs were to be passed to another person who was supposed to carry the drugs to Egypt on a commercial flight, Senad said.
Senad agents in the capital searched the apartment where the courier picked up the drugs, arresting the occupant and seizing a small quantity of cocaine along with containers and scales containing drug residue.
Police then went to a residence in suburban Asuncion where they expected to find Da Rosa.
Though Da Rosa wasn’t there, Senad detained a Bolivian woman thought to be his girlfriend.
Da Rosa was formerly part of a gang that kidnapped former Bolivian Sen. Ana Maria Flores in 2012, Senad said.
Flores, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2009, was freed after a day in captivity and police in Bolivia suspected her family paid a $500,000 ransom to get her back.
Drug traffickers have established clandestine labs in Paraguay to process Bolivian-grown coca into cocaine for subsequent sale in Brazil and other countries, according to Senad.
The counternarcotics agency confiscated 3.3 tons of cocaine in 2013.