(Bloomberg) -- President Mario Abdo Benitez dismissed a senior member of his government over ties to alleged drug traffickers for the second time this week after a major sting on organized crime.
Abdo Benitez fired the head of the National Emergency Agency, Joaquin Roa, after he confirmed buying a yacht from one of 43 people arrested or facing arrest under a sweeping drug trafficking bust that included the participation of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, Europol, and Uruguayan officials. Authorities are targeting gangs who are thought to have shipped 21 tons of cocaine to European and Uruguayan ports in recent years.
Among the assets impounded this week are nine aircraft, more than 3,000 cattle and 20 vehicles including BMW and Lamborghini cars. The value of assets slated for seizure will probably exceed early estimates of $100 million as the ongoing investigation uncovers more evidence at businesses, exchange houses and farms, said Francisco Ayala, communications director for Paraguay’s drug enforcement agency Senad.
“This is the biggest operation against drug trafficking and money laundering in Paraguay’s history,” Ayala said in a telephone interview. He added there will probably be more arrest warrants issued.
The government has struggled to contain criminal organizations ranging from Brazilian gangs that staged a daring vault heist to a self-styled revolutionary group linked to the kidnapping of a former vice president in 2020. On Tuesday, Abdo Benitez dismissed the head of the Interior Ministry, which is in charge of policing, following local media reports of his alleged ties to organized crime.
Speaking with Radio Monumental early Thursday before losing his job, Roa said he purchased the $400,000 yacht in good faith for his boating hobby.
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