The detention of a powerful Colombian arms dealer accused of supplying weapons to the ELN has revealed the details of an intricate international arms trade extending from the United States to Colombia.
José Alexander Peláez Mejía, known as “Zeus” or “Mono,” was arrested March 8 at the Bogotá International Airport after being deported from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, where he resided, according to Colombian police.
SEE ALSO: Colombia Organized Crime and News
Zeus was wanted, including by Interpol, for “manufacturing and trafficking or possession of firearms, accessories, parts or ammunition, and restricted use ammunition, of exclusive use by armed forces or explosives.”
He is accused of being the top arms dealer for members of the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN) in the Colombian department of Antioquia.
According to Colombian police, Zeus acquired arms in the United States, brought them to Central America and, through courier companies, sent them to Colombia. There, he used cargo trucks and buses to reach multiple ELN structures in Antioquia department as well as other criminal groups.
The capture took place as part of an international operation carried out by Interpol, which concluded with 560 arrests in eight countries of Latin America.
InSight Crime Analysis
The arrest of Zeus reveals the modus operandi of arms suppliers to the most powerful criminal groups in Colombia, who had largely remained below the radar.
Using a car repair company as a front, Zeus built up his profile as a businessman, allowing him to profit from the illicit arms trade without attracting unwanted attention.
His ELN contact was known as “Mauricio,” who received the weaponry and distributed them concealed inside public buses.
SEE ALSO: ELN News and Profile
Zeus’ neutral position was crucial for carrying out these business transactions. His clients also included dissident members of the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), according to local media reports.
The range of weapons Zeus offered was also very attractive for his buyers. His array of weapons included the Barret .50 caliber rifle, used for penetrating armored vehicles and reaching targets up to two kilometers away, Glock and Beretta handguns, assault rifles and hand grenades
However, these arms dealers masquerading as legitimate businessmen are not the only dealers supplying weapons to criminal structures in the country.
Members of Colombia and Ecuador's armed forces have increasingly been linked to the illicit arms trade. In 2017, Major Héctor Murillo was arrested for his ties with the Urabeños and sentenced for corruption and selling weapons to this organization.