A sophisticated 650-foot long tunnel being burrowed under the walls of a high-security prison was discovered this week — and that may not even be the most interesting part of this story. The Mob Reporter here with news of a stunning feat of underworld infrastructure that is linked to one of the most interesting and successful modern-day global crime kingpins. Let me tell you about it.
The tunnel in Lima, Peru, stretched more than 200-metres long about 10-metres underground, was high enough to stand upright in — and was well on its way to making it to the prison’s dining hall, where inmates eat their meals. The tunnel was rough hewn and supported with wooden beams. It required a significant construction crew and technical engineering.
The entrance was in a block of homes and well camouflaged. The earth they extracted as they dug was carted away by truck at night. Police say events forced the tunnel to be built in two stages.
The tunnel has been linked to a shadowy international criminal organization known as Group America. That link is this man: Zoran Jakšić, a 60-year-old Serbian kingpin. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project has been documenting Group America for years, tracking its activities through countries and across continents. Here’s a link to their reporting: https://www.occrp.org/en/group-america/
With their roots in the Balkans and business around the world, including an alleged boss living in New York, the members of Group America have weathered a flurry of international police operations over years: In Italy, the United States, Britain, Greece, South Africa, Argentina, Spain, Serbia, Netherlands, Brazil, Germany, Croatia, Australia and Austria among them.
Now this is what ties the story of Group America to the prison tunnel. In 2016, police in Peru stumbled onto a trafficking plot and it turned out to feature Jakšić and others. By the time it was wrapped up, police were calling it a Mega-Operation using the codename of the Spanish word for Swallows, after the little birds, but when they arrive to arrest Jakšić, he’d already flown the coop. Three months later he was finally captured trying to cross the border into Ecuador.
He was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Here he is appearing in court in Peru, as shown on Justicia TV. Here is a link to the full video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZQo7...
Jakšić was placed in Miguel Castro Castro Prison in Lima. He was housed in the pavilion where the tunnel’s trajectory would have taken it. In February 2019, he and a Mexican colleague were suddenly transferred out of the prison that was built adjacent to a bustling urban sprawl, to a maximum-security facility further north after an escape plot was uncovered. Peru’s penitentiary director said the tunnel was originally started to free Jakšić and construction stopped when they were transferred. But the tunnel head was never found.
Last month, officials learned tunnel excavation resumed and a search in the vicinity around the prison intensified. They discovered the source on Dec. 7, 2020.
Ground penetrating radar is being used to trace the tunnel and ensure it did not breach into the prison property. An investigation is underway. The government has promised a review, not only of this tunneling effort but of all high-security prisons where high-value prisoners are being held. May I humbling suggest they start with the prison where Jakšić is now staying.