HomeNewsBriefColombia Captures Top Gasoline Smuggler
BRIEF

Colombia Captures Top Gasoline Smuggler

COLOMBIA / 20 FEB 2015 BY LOREN RIESENFELD EN

Police in Colombia have captured the so-called "fuel czar," the leader of a contraband smuggling operation along the border with Venezuela, in what could signal an effort to reduce the flow of illicit goods.

On February 19, Colombian police confirmed the capture of Pedro Enrique Ospino Cobo, alias "Balacho," in Venezuela, reported El Colombiano. Ospino was allegedly the successor to captured contraband boss Marcos de Jesus Figueroa Garcia, alias "Marquitos," and controlled the finances of Marquitos' operation, along with drug routes, gasoline smuggling, and extortion operations, reported Semana

Ospino has also been identified as the alleged perpetrator of the murders of a mayor and city councilman in northeastern Colombia in 2012. 

Marquitos was arrested in Brazil last October, after building a lucrative gasoline smuggling and drug trafficking operation allegedly facilitated by ties to local politicians including the former governor of Colombia's La Guajira province, Francisco "Kiko" Gomez. While not much is known about Ospino, Colombian police say he was one of three leaders who took over the criminal network after Marquitos was captured, according to El Heraldo.

InSight Crime Analysis

Ospino's capture suggests that Colombian authorities are turning their attention to contraband smuggling, a historically overlooked problem. In October, the head of Colombia’s fiscal police told Reuters that strides made against drug trafficking and progress in peace talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had allowed security forces to focus on combatting the contraband trade, a problem they previously did not have the resources to tackle.

The focus on contraband appears to be a new strategy. When InSight Crime visited the Venezuelan border region in September, officials said there was so much contraband moving across the border authorities had no hopes of stemming the flow. "We can't stop this. All we can do is try to make sure it is not out of control," one customs police officer told InSight Crime. Similarly, Reuters reported that officials are only able to inspect around two percent of goods crossing the border, enabling contraband to make up over 10 percent of Colombia’s imports in 2013. By mid-September last year, customs police in the border city of Cucuta had seized over $5.1 million worth of contraband.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

Gasoline smuggling, the forte of Marquitos' former empire, is especially profitable. According to the Los Angeles Times, 16 percent of all gasoline produced in Venezuelan refineries ends up as contraband in Colombia, Brazil, and the Caribbean, and gasoline bought for 4 cents a gallon at Venezuelan service stations can be sold for huge markups in Colombia.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 16 AUG 2022

The ELN and Urabeños are once again battling for control of Bolívar, a northern department of Colombia.

EL KOKI / 13 JUL 2021

Venezuelan forces have fought running gun battles in the streets of Caracas in recent days with members of the capital’s…

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 25 FEB 2021

Located on Paraguay’s border with Brazil, Canindeyú is a key criminal hub in the tri-border area.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…