Ecuador deported one of Peru’s most wanted suspected drug traffickers Sunday, Peru’s interior ministry announced. Gerald Americo Oropeza, who was arrested in Ecuador Saturday, was considered a “big fish” in Peru’s drug-trafficking scene, Pedro Cateriano, the president of Peru’s Council of Ministers, said.
Oropeza had been one of Peru’s most wanted fugitives for months. He was also wanted by international police organization Interpol, which had a warrant out for his arrest, Cateriano said in an interview with Peruvian news agency RPP Noticias. A federal court ordered Oropeza’s arrest for links to drug trafficking in May, but he disappeared from the country shortly thereafter.
Ecuadorian police worked with Peruvian intelligence units to finally locate Oropeza, the Peruvian National Police said. “We are grateful to the Ecuadorian police and its authorities for their cooperation,” the police department said in a statement Sunday. He was transferred to Peruvian authorities in the northwestern city of Tumbes and will be transported to the capital of Lima to face charges.
Oropeza was nicknamed “Tony Montana,” after the fictional protagonist from the 1983 movie “Scarface.” Police accused him of being the leader of a network that smuggled cocaine and other illicit drugs into Italy in collaboration with Italian criminal organization ‘Ndrangheta.
He made headlines in April when the vehicle in which he was traveling with two associates was attacked by assailants with explosives. Police suspected that the attack was borne out of a rivalry with another drug gang, but the perpetrators have not been arrested. Weeks after the attack, a friend of Oropeza’s who was serving as a key witness in the investigation against him was found dead.
Cocaine demand in Europe has been on the rise in recent years, while demand in the U.S. has waned, according to various reports by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime and Ameripol. The ‘Ndrangheta mafia, meanwhile, has reportedly been expanding its foothold in Latin America.