HomeNewsBrief‘Colombia Customs Official Got Rich Off Contraband’
BRIEF

‘Colombia Customs Official Got Rich Off Contraband’

COLOMBIA / 22 APR 2015 BY JAMES BARGENT EN

A former top official for Colombia’s customs agency reportedly increased his wealth exponentially by collaborating with smugglers, allegations that, if true, illustrate how the corruption fueling Colombia’s contraband boom extends far beyond the lower ranks of enforcement.

Humberto Angulo Montero, the former tax and customs head for two of Colombia’s most important port cities — Cartagena, on the Caribbean, and Buenaventura on the Pacific side — was arrested earlier this month on illicit enrichment charges.

Prosecutors said his assets inexplicably increased by 580 percent between 2003 and 2009.

The investigation into Angulo began in 2007, after a transparency watchdog notified prosecutors that he was allegedly creating a “hotbed of corruption for contraband textiles and liquor,” reported El Espectador.

According to the accusations, while running the customs offices in Buenaventura and Cartegena, Angulo would help his collaborators underreport shipments of shoes, textiles, alcohol, and cigarettes by as much as 50 percent.

Angulo denies the charges, claiming the increase in his assets can be explained by the fact that he received an additional salary as a former Navy captain, reported El Espectador.

InSight Crime Analysis

Contraband smuggling is a hugely lucrative criminal activity in Colombia, especially along its eastern border where it is fueled by price controls in Venezuela. According to authorities, there is increasing overlap between established organized crime groups and the contraband trade, especially when it comes to money laundering. 

While some types of smuggling are more blatant — especially on land, where convoys of vehicles dash across clandestine border crossings — the bulk of the trade involves complicit officials who underreport how many goods are entering or exiting the country, as embodied by Angulo’s case.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Contraband

This method of smuggling is known as “technical contraband,” and involves using forged or altered documents to move goods through legal channels in ports and airports (such as those highlighted in the map below) before diverting them into the black market. According to the Colombia’s tax and customs agency, the DIAN, this accounts for approximately 76 percent of the contraband trade.

{googleMaps lat=11.3831092 long=-72.2460937 zoom=6 width=100% height=480 marker=0 addoverview=0 kml=https://enmenteweb.com/insightcrime/maps/contrabandoesp.kmz mapkey=https://enmenteweb.com/insightcrime//images/maps/contrabandoeng.png}

Enforcement agencies have freely admitted to InSight Crime that the boom in contraband smuggling has been facilitated by official corruption. Angulo’s case, while ongoing, may yet prove to be an important precedent in pursuing the upper echelons of those complicit in Colombia’s contraband trade.

Compartir icon icon icon

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.

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 23 MAY 2018

Authorities in Colombia have dismantled a subterranean cocaine hydrochloride-producing laboratory in one of the country’s most strategic drug trafficking regions,…

COCAINE / 12 MAR 2019

A remote port along the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica has long seen shipments of bananas and pineapples conceal another…

COLOMBIA / 18 FEB 2019

The high-profile March 2018 kidnapping and murder of three media workers was a landmark moment for Ecuador, and put a…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…