The Attorney General's Office announced on Tuesday the capture of 24 people, including five members of the National Navy, for allegedly being part of a migrant smuggling network that extended through various parts of the country. The criminal organization was called La Agencia, according to the prosecutor's office, and irregularly transported migrants to San Andrés and the Darien Gap, and then "managed" their departure "to the United States, Canada and Australia." The arrests occurred in several areas that are nodes of migratory flows: Bucaramanga, Cartagena, Coveñas, Cúcuta, Maicao, Necoclí, San Andrés, Santa Marta and also in the Gulf of Urabá. The defendants face charges of conspiracy to commit crimes, migrant smuggling, bribery and money laundering.
Ricardo Romero, the deputy prosecutor for Against Criminal Finance, explained at a press conference that the network "managed two modalities" to move the migrants. The first was with fake visas. The Prosecutor's Office points out that three women who were part of the organization were dedicated to managing them. Another of those captured was a Colombian Migration official who worked at the immigration checkpoint in Capurganá, a Chocó township heavily trafficked by migrants traveling to the Darien. Allegedly, this worker stamped false stamps on passports, but did not register the data in the immigration system.
The second modality was corruption in the National Navy. The officer and the four non-commissioned officers captured in the operation are accused of bypassing maritime signaling controls and alerting the network to the location of military vessels. The prosecution alleges that they accepted bribes of between 3 and 10 million pesos ($700 to $2,500) for it. This was a key part of the criminal operation, as the Agency was dedicated to transporting migrants in boats from Colombia to Central America. From there, a coyote accompanied them to the United States.
The investigation against the network began in the Technical Investigation Corps of the Prosecutor's Office (CTI), a division of the investigative body. It lasted two years and had the participation of Migración Colombia. Throughout the operation, 42 cell phones were intercepted and used covertly in person and virtually.
The two routes used by the organization to transport migrants are two of the most dangerous migration corridors in the world. According to official data, since 2018 at least 258 people have died or disappeared in the Darién, the inhospitable jungle that connects Colombia and Panama. However, many experts say the real numbers are much higher. So far this year, nearly 500,000 people have crossed the cap.
On the other hand, the island of San Andrés, located in the Colombian Caribbean and close to Central America, has become increasingly tempting as a departure point for migrants leaving South America. On October 21, a boat carrying Colombians and Venezuelans from the island to Nicaragua disappeared at sea. To this day, neither the boat nor the victims have been found.
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