Colombia busts animal trafficking network, 21 arrested

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After months of undercover work by judicial investigators, the Attorney General’s Office – Fiscalía General de la República– confirmed Tuesday that 21 persons belonging to an extensive animal trafficking network have been arrested and face prosecution on charges of clandestine extraction, distribution and commercialization of wild animals.

The 21 accused members of the network were presented Tuesday before guarantee judges in Bogotá and Medellín (Antioquia), and charged with fulfilling different roles in a crime syndicate that hunted exotic species near the municipality of Magangué in the department of Bolívar, before packing them in boxes to be shipped to Medellín in the baggage compartments of inter-departmental buses.

Fiscalia

The designated ringleader, Alexis Alonso Barrios, was in charge of receiving the animals, and coordinating the sale and distribution to various cities in the country. The alleged trafficker used social media networks and closed cell phone messaging groups to organize the sale and delivery of the animals to private collectors.  Among the many species that appear in Barrios’ photographic archives are iguanas, ferrets, turtles, snakes, macaws, parrots, African hedgehogs, monkeys, deer, caimans, wild cats and other endangered species.

According investigation by the Fiscalia’s Special Group for the Fight against Animal Abuse (GELMA) and Specialized Directorate against Human Rights Violations followed an illegal money trail that led from Medellín to Magangué, Cali (Valle del Cauca), Piendamó (Cauca), Mosquera (Cundinamarca) and Bogotá.

Fiscalia