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Officials Probe New Dominican Drug Cartel

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic --

U.S. federal agents are helping Dominican authorities investigate an apparent drug cartel that has formed in the country's northern region, officials said Friday.

One of the two accused leaders arrested this week, Nadim Bezi, is nephew of the mayor of the popular coastal city of Samana, according to the National Drug Control Agency. The other suspect was identified as Silvio Pena.

Agency spokesman Ramon Rodriguez described the group as extremely dangerous and said they work with cartels in Mexico and Colombia. The Caribbean nation is a popular location to ship drugs to North America and Europe.

He said the group is tied to the seizure of 157 kilograms (346 pounds) of cocaine in late March in Samana. Four people were arrested.

The group - dubbed the "Cibao Cartel" - operates in the northwest and the northern Cibao region, a lush agricultural valley where the two most important cities following the capital, Santiago and La Vega, are located, Rodriguez said.

Rolando Rosado, director of the country's drug control agency, said he asked the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration for help because it is such a broad investigation.

He declined to provide details about the group.

"We're in a phase where any out of line or improper statements can ruin or compromise the investigation," he said.


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