Latin America / INTERPOL

Thirteen of Latin America’s most wanted fugitives arrested

15 March 2021

An INTERPOL-coordinated ‘EL PAcCTO’ operation (20 November– 5 March) has seen a team of investigators from across Latin America locate and arrest 13 of their most wanted fugitives.

Wanted for serious and often horrific crimes, including murder, kidnapping and sexual violence against women, the fugitives were all subject to INTERPOL Red Notices – a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a wanted person.

Their names also featured on a list of priority fugitive targets established by INTERPOL’s Fugitive Investigative Support (FIS) unit and law enforcement in eight Latin American countries in late 2020.

Then, during a two-week ‘operational phase’ (22 February – 5 March), INTERPOL coordinated intensive working meetings between national law enforcement aimed at locating and arresting as many of these fugitives as possible.

The operational model effectively pushes international police cooperation into ‘hyper drive’, allowing investigators to exchange actionable information in real-time.

Multiple arrests in a single day

This year, more fugitives were arrested during the operational phase than in any other INTERPOL EL PAcCTO project to date. On one occasion, multiple fugitives were arrested in a single day. Positive locations were also secured for a further two wanted persons.

A fugitive wanted by Peru for child sexual exploitation and human trafficking was arrested by Argentina’s Federal Police after several days spent tracking down family members that had provided erroneous addresses.

Inga Molina was on Ecuador’s most wanted list since 2018 for rape. Initially thought to have fled abroad, investigators exchanging information within the EL PAcCTO task force managed to locate and arrest him in Quito through open source analysis and wiretaps.

The head of an international drug trafficking ring, wanted by Brazil following a series of seizures who had brought in more than two tonnes of cocaine, was arrested by Bolivian police in Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

A permanent EL PAcCTO network

“These results are only possible thanks to the permanent EL PAcCTO network that has been built up over time between national fugitive investigators,” said Stephen Kavanagh, INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services.

“Each year, this network gets stronger and it becomes even harder for criminals to escape justice by fleeing from one Latin America country to another,” added Mr Kavanagh.

Law enforcement from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Panama and Peru took part in the EL PAcCTO operation.

EL PAcCTO is a European Union-funded cooperation programme that seeks to strengthen capacities and facilitate international cooperation. Its partnership with INTERPOL aims to create and develop a permanent mechanism for fugitive investigations across Latin America.

First launched in 2018, INTERPOL-coordinated EL PAcCTO operations have so far led to the location and arrest of 79 fugitives as well as 28 positive locations.