Colombia Organized Crime Writing

Crime-Linked Colombia Emerald Barons Face Extradition on US Drug Charges

The United States has requested the extradition of several Colombian emerald magnates on drug trafficking charges, marking the first time US authorities have targeted members of the country’s lucrative emerald industry, and possibly foreshadowing a new chain of indictments to come.

Prosecutors in a Florida federal court charged four prominent Colombian emerald barons and one politician from the department of Boyacá with engaging in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy between 2002 and 2015. Their drug trafficking network allegedly spanned Colombia, Venezuela, Mexico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, according to an indictment filed on July 28.

In connection with the charges, the United States has requested the extradition of José Rogelio Nieto, the former mayor of Cúper in Boyacá, as well as brothers Gilberto, Ómar and Pedro Rincón and their brother-in-law Horacio Triana, all of whom have held prominent positions in the region’s lucrative emerald industry.

Gilberto Rincón currently heads the family’s emerald mining business and serves as a local councilman. His brothers Omar and Pedro Rincón are both currently jailed for separate homicide charges. Triana was also arrested in 2016 on charges of attempted murder.

Several more US extradition requests are expected to follow for judges, public prosecutors and a journalist on charges of obstruction of justice in the case, according to Semana.

InSight Crime Analysis

This marks the first time the United States has requested the extradition of prominent figures tied to Colombia’s lucrative and bloody emerald industry. But despite a cloud of suspicion over some of the suspects’ potential illegal activities surrounding the often crime-ridden mineral trade, the United States has chosen to pursue the suspects on drug trafficking charges instead.

Petrit Baquero, who detailed evidence of ties between Boyacá’s emerald barons and a slew of organized crime groups in his book “The New Green War” (“La nueva guerra verde”), told InSight Crime that the region of Boyacá “has always been fertile for laundering money because emeralds are expensive and the cost is determined based on what the market is willing to pay … making it very easy to wash money in that way, in many cases drug money.”

Read the rest of this news analysis at InSight Crime.

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