- In July 2023, Uruguayan Sebastián Marset—accused of being the region’s most powerful narco and a money launderer—evaded capture after 2,500 police officials raided his mansion in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, and seven of his other properties.
- Marset—who possesses fake identities from Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay—has worked in industries like event producing and sports while building a drug empire in Latin America. Bolivian Security Minister Eduardo del Castillo revealed that Interpol and the DEA are seeking to capture Marset for narcotrafficking.
- Marset is founder of the First Uruguayan Cartel (PCU), a criminal organization specialized in drug trafficking from Bolivia to Europe. In 2022, the organization suffered an important blow—which includes the arrest of 14 high-ranking members and the seizure of assets valued at $150 million. Prosecutor Marcelo Pecci led the biggest operation against drug trafficking in Paraguayan history.
- Marset’s contacts have an important influence over Latin American officials and politicians. For example, an insider in Bolivia’s antidrug agency allegedly warned him about the raid of his properties and allowed Marset to evade capture.
On July 29, 2023, Sebastián Marset, a Uruguayan narco, went on the run before 2,500 police officers raided eight of his properties, including his mansion in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. Although his whereabouts remain unknown, in a video he posted on social media on August 13 Marset said he was no longer in Bolivia.
🔴🔴🔴 Mansión de Marset, su esposa y 3 hijos. Policía boliviana investiga quién le avisó que lo iban a buscar. Se estima que está desde setiembre de 2022 allí, aunque era una zona donde siempre operó. También tenía un equipo de fútbol en la B.pic.twitter.com/33xNsWK4vH
— Diego Martini Lemos (@cabezamartini) July 30, 2023
Colombian officials are pursuing Marset for allegedly being the author of Paraguayan Prosecutor Marcelo Pecci’s murder in 2022 in Barú, Colombia. Pecci led “A Ultranza Py,” the biggest operation against drug trafficking and money laundering in Paraguayan history, which led to the seizure of assets worth $150 million. At the same time, Paraguayan and Bolivian authorities are accusing Marset of narcotrafficking. Bolivian officials are offering a $100,000 reward for information that leads to his capture.
Marset has already been subject to criminal accusations before becoming a drug lord wanted by Interpol and the DEA, as Bolivian security Minister Eduardo del Castillo confirmed on July 30. Paraguayan officials prosecuted him for receiving and storing stolen objects in 2012. One year later, Uruguayan officials jailed Marset for five years for smuggling marijuana from Paraguay to Uruguay.
After leaving prison, Uruguayan authorities prosecuted Marset for the murder of his childhood best friend, Alfredo Rondán, for “drug-related debts.” However, Prosecutor Maximiliano Sosa dismissed all charges in 2020 for “not having enough evidence to accuse Marset of being the homicide’s author.”
Marset’s Multiple Lives
During his time in Bolivia, Marset lived a luxurious lifestyle. Police officials found on his properties 31 cars, one motorcycle, marihuana, and 17 guns. In addition, they found exotic animals such as monkeys and ocelots in his backyard. Regional media such as Infobae have reported that Marset has been allegedly laundering money through a soccer team called the Lions—which he owned and where he played under the fake name of Luis Amorim. He allegedly used his companies—such as Team Force—to sponsor multiple soccer teams, including Paraguay’s River Plate.
Between 2018 and 2023, apart from playing professional soccer and working in the sports industry, Marset worked as an event producer. According to Uruguay’s El Observador, Marset worked for Mastian Productions owned by José Insfrán, one of the leaders of the Insfrán Clan. Mastian Productions has worked with multiple renowned Latin American artists such as Romeo Santos, Chichi Peralta, and Rombai.
On August 12, 2023, Sebastián Peña—president of Bolivian soccer team Blooming—was arrested by local authorities for allegedly having ties with Marset. Although Bolivian Public Ministry officials have said they will provide details on Peña’s arrest and his relationship with Marset, they have failed to do so. Local media outlets have reported that Peña’s arrest stems from money laundering via soccer teams and player transfers.
Marset’s Creation: First Uruguayan Cartel
Marset has for the past decade led drug-smuggling operations from Latin America to Europe through his criminal organization: the First Uruguayan Cartel (PCU). Uruguayan police officers discovered the existence of the PCU in 2019, after the seizure of 872 kilograms of cocaine in Parque del Plata, Uruguay. The shipment had the PCU initials, the same as Marset has tattooed on his right hand.
Although the date and place of PCU’s origin remain uncertain, an InSight Crime report infers that Marset built a contact network during his time in prison to develop the PCU.
- Drug production, which takes place mainly in Bolivia.
- Drug transportation to Paraguay’s multiple storage centers.
- Storage and distribution to other domestic hubs.
- Exporting and distributing the drugs to European countries.
- Laundering the profits from the operation.
The report asserts that Marset “has an active participation on all of the stages,” and he receives “most of the profits.”
Marset’s Contacts: Prominent Latin American Figures
Marset has proved to have influential contacts among officials, politicians, and criminals from Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. These contacts have helped him either evade his capture or be released from detention in foreign countries, such as Marset’s release from UAE custody in 2021.
According to a video posted by Marset on August 13, the head of Bolivia’s Special Department against Narcotrafficking (FELCN) forewarned him of the raid on his properties. This helped Marset escape the country on time and evade his capture. He described Bolivian Security Minister Eduardo del Castillo as a “donkey.” Marset added, “If I speak about Bolivian authorities, they will have a hard time.”
In addition, an investigation by Uruguayan news outlet El Observador revealed Marset’s alleged influence among Paraguayan and Uruguayan officials. This came out during his detention in the United Arab Emirates for traveling with a fake Paraguayan passport in 2021. While detained, Marset applied for an Uruguayan passport. He wanted to leave the country legally. Uruguayan officials granted him the passport and Marset immediately fled.
Pauline Davis, Uruguay’s director of consulates, ordered then-Uruguayan Diplomat to the United Arab Emirates Fiorella Prado to issue Marset’s passport. This led to Marset fleeing the country legally and evading justice. According to Uruguayan officials, “It was surprising how fast Marset obtained his new passport.”
El Observador reported that with the help of Miguel Ángel Insfrán, a leader of Paraguay’s Insfrán Clan, Marset had at least two other plans for exiting the United Arab Emirates. One of the plans was for Ángel Barchini, Paraguayan ambassador in the Middle Eastern country, to convince local authorities that Marset’s passport was valid. The second option was for Barchini to blame the opaque origin of the passport on the Paraguayan migration authorities.
The report also revealed that Marset told his contacts in Paraguay to talk to “Marito or Cartes” if it was necessary to get to a swift solution for his detention. While Marito is the nickname of Paraguayan President Mario Abdo Benítez, Cartes refers to former President Horacio Cartes.
As of this writing there does not appear to be any clear evidence of Marset’s location, and his family are on the run too—that is despite fervent interest from Interpol, DEA, and law enforcement from Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay. On August 4, Bolivian law enforcement agents arrested two men: Erlan García, allegedly a member of Marset’s inner circle, and one of Marset’s bodyguards.
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