SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic – Interpol, the world’s largest international police organization, said authorities arrested 20 wanted criminals in the Dominican Republic in the past six months, some of whom were on the run from countries as distant as Slovenia and Russia.
Among those arrested were five Dominicans, two Cubans, a Mexican and a Canadian along with Europeans and Asians. The suspects were wanted for crimes ranging from murder to financial scams to drug trafficking.
The Dominican Interpol office, which works with the National Police, uses modern equipment and cutting-edge technology to track crimes and criminals who have gone into hiding, said Roberto Albino Filpo, who runs the Santo Domingo office. The office consists of 50 special agents working undercover in groups of three in 24-hour shifts.
The arrests marked major scores in a country where criminals have lived openly in the past. Civil society groups have pushed for tightening the battle against impunity in the country. The government has vowed to crack down on criminals.
The most recent of the 20 arrests was made Jan. 24 when authorities caught Petv Masopust, a fugitive from the Czech Republic who was hiding in Puerto Plata, a beach town on the northern Dominican coast. Masopust was wanted in his home country for allegedly running a scam in which he stole millions.
Albino Filpo said he escorted Masopust back to the European country.
Authorities named the following criminals who also were detained: Michele Rossi, an Italian national accused of international drug trafficking; Stanislav Koťátko, a Czech wanted for alleged narco-trafficking; Antonio Ávalos Valencia, a Mexican accused of cocaine trafficking; Robert Fröbe, wanted in Germany for allegedly running a scam and bank fraud; and Eslovenia Hari Presetnik, also wanted for alleged bank fraud and financial crimes.
Additionally, authorities said they extradited the following suspects: Michel Lavis, who was extradited to Canada to face charges of sexually abusing minors; Roberto Cartillejo, extradited to Spain for charges of money laundering and bank fraud; Ivan Sivkovic, a Serbian wanted for allegedly trafficking morphine, opium and heroin; Aleksandr Andreerick, wanted for alleged involvement in the Russian mafia; and a host of Dominicans and Cuban-Americans who were extradited to the United States to face charges. Authorities did not name them.
While officials hailed the arrests, they said there’s a long list of criminals still at large in the Dominican Republic. Authorities said they are looking for 146 Dominican fugitives in the country and elsewhere, including Onel Báez Guzmán, who is wanted for allegedly shooting to death a car window washer in broad daylight on a busy street last year following an altercation.
Interpol has also released a red alert for Estervin Rikervin Vilorio Calas, the alleged leader of a criminal group that robbed an Expreso Caribe bus of $38 million Dominican pesos (US$844,922).
The Interpol arrests come amid a push by the Dominican Republic to crack down on crime by coordinating with international authorities and foreign governments. U.S. authorities have worked closely with the Dominican counter-narcotics agencies to combat international drug trafficking.
The Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, is the center of Caribbean drug trade, with local and international cartels using the country to move South American cocaine to the United States and Europe.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said criminal organizations are increasingly using the Caribbean to move illicit drugs. Fourteen percent of cocaine bound for the U.S. was trafficked through the Caribbean in the first half of 2013, double the 7% that came through the region during the same period a year earlier, according to the DEA.