Authorities have accused Luis Del Río Jiménez, alias “el Tío,” or “Señor T,” of being a major drug trafficker with Colombian underworld ties that date back to the 1990s, when he worked with kingpin Pablo Escobar and the Oficina de Envigado. He stayed in hiding for years, but despite his best efforts, he did not manage to become "invisible" as other major capos have done.
On November 24, a joint operation between the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Colombia’s anti-narcotics agency took down an international cocaine trafficking network run out of the department of Antioquia, El Colombiano reported.
Ten people were arrested during the operation and charged with trafficking 90 tons of cocaine to the United States. The network also allegedly laundered at least $9 million through 112 businesses in Central America and Colombia, the newspaper reported.
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Colombian authorities and DEA sources told El Colombiano that Luis Arnobio Del Río Jiménez, a well-known businessman from Antioquia who owns clubs and fruit companies in the region, was allegedly behind the money laundering network.
Ánderson Del Río Pasos, alias “el Grande” and Del Río Jiménez's son, is alleged to have worked with his father to launder the drug money through shell companies and frontmen, according to documents seen by El Colombiano that detail the operation.
For at least five years, the smuggling ring moved drugs north via the Pacific coast, employing contacts in Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, the United States and Canada. The drugs were largely received by the Jalisco Cartel New Generation (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación – CJNG).
General Jorge Ramírez, director of the National Police's anti-narcotics agency, said Del Río Jiménez is one of the three most wanted drug traffickers in Colombia, and among the 10 most wanted in the United States, Noticias Caracol reported.
Del Río Jiménez evaded justice for more than 30 years. He was able to stay out of the spotlight, hiding behind higher-profile crime bosses such as Fredy Alonzo Mira Pérez, alias “Fredy Colas,” and Sebastián Murillo Echeverry, alias “Lindolfo."
InSight Crime Analysis
While Del Río Jiménez was able to successfully evade authorities, his ostentatious lifestyle recalls capos of previous generations more than the new drug bosses who tend to maintain as low a profile as possible. InSight Crime has dubbed these kingpins Los Invisibles, or “The Invisibles.”
Ramírez, the anti-narcotics director, said Del Río Jiménez was 25 years old when he served as an associate of Pablo Escobar's, according to the Caracol report. He was later linked to the Oficina de Envigado, the conglomerate of criminal groups that rose to control Medellín's underworld, though his role within the organization was not specified.
He amassed a fortune that included more than 200 properties and 50 luxury vehicles that he used to move around Medellín and Bogotá.
For this reason, Del Río Jiménez appears more in line with the last century's mafia bosses than the Invisibles, who are known for not showing off their wealth, and never touching cocaine or using violence themselves.
New generations, learning from the errors of their predecessors, tend to conduct their illicit business deals through a sophisticated chain of intermediaries and a diverse portfolio of legally established businesses.
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One example is José Bayron Piedrahíta, alias “El Árabe,” who managed to stay out of the spotlight through a successful livestock farming business and his wide network of political contacts, despite having been linked to drug trafficking since the era of the Cali Cartel in the 1980s and 1990s.
Piedrahita used his power and his contacts to bribe a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations agent, which helped him evade authorities until 2016, when the US Treasury Department accused him of drug trafficking and placed him on its blacklist.
Unlike Piedrahíta, Del Río Jiménez has been in the sights of law enforcement for years, particularly after he was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2004 by a Colombian court for his participation in a ring that exported drugs to Frankfurt, Germany.
The size of his operation put him on the map again in 2017 with the loss of one of his shipments headed for Spain, according to a profile published by the magazine Semana.
Although Colombian media has characterized him as one of the country’s top drug traffickers, Del Río Jiménez appears to be more of a mid-sized kingpin. While he has tried to hide behind other actors for much of his criminal life, it was not enough to keep him entirely off the radar.