HomeNewsBriefColombia Seizes Just 3% of Criminal Assets
BRIEF

Colombia Seizes Just 3% of Criminal Assets

COLOMBIA / 17 SEP 2014 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

A former top prosecutor has said that Colombia seizes less than $750 million a year in illegal assets, but that a recent reform could cut in half the time it takes to confiscate illicit property, suggesting that the government is poised to make a serious dent in the finances of criminal groups.

Former Colombian Vice Prosecutor General Wilson Alejandro Martinez Sanchez, author of an upcoming study on the topic, told InSight Crime that between $500 million and $750 million in illegal assets are seized each year in Colombia.

This figure would represent 3 percent or less of the $18 billion annual earnings of Colombia's organized crime groups, according to an estimate given in a World Bank study.

A January update to the property seizure law (pdf) will give authorities greater ability to seize assets from suspected criminals who have not yet been convicted, according to Martinez. He estimates the new legislation will cut the average time needed to complete property seizures from seven years to three or four years.

"These modifications allow the property seizure law to fully realize its potential in the fight against organized crime," Martinez told InSight Crime.

InSight Crime Analysis

Colombia's existing property seizure law was hailed by former President Alvaro Uribe as one of the country's "most feared" anti-drug tools, and authorities succesfully used it in previous decades to confiscate assets from major organizations including the Medellin Cartel, the Norte del Valle Cartel, and the Cali Cartel.

However, bureaucratic hurdles -- such as inefficient judicial proceedings -- have slowed property seizure cases and limited the law's power, as Martinez noted to InSight Crime.

There is also the issue of corruption in the handling of seized assets. Colombia's National Narcotics Directorate -- which was formerly responsible for managing such assets -- is currently being disbanded, following a scandal in which billions of dollars seized from drug traffickers were found to have gone missing. One police colonel in Santa Cruz, Bolivia also highlighted the potential for mismanagement of seized assets when he told InSight Crime his office was looking to seize properties from traffickers in order to acquire new office space.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

Colombia is one of just a handful in Latin America which has property seizure laws in place. Guatemala has faced similar bureaucratic challenges as Colombia in implementing such legislation, and Mexico opened just 29 asset seizures cases between 2009 and 2012.

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

ECUADOR / 30 SEP 2021

Ecuador is reeling from its worst-ever prison massacre in Guayaquil but the factors that led to this situation could well…

DISPLACEMENT / 3 MAR 2022

Without the bodies, the exact number of people executed in broad daylight at a funeral in Mexico's western state of…

COLOMBIA / 16 AUG 2022

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

About InSight Crime

WORK WITH US

Open Position: Full Stack WordPress Developer

28 NOV 2022

As Full Stack WordPress Developer You Will: Work collaboratively with other developers and designers to maintain and improve organizational standards.Demonstrate a high level of attention to detail, and implement best…

THE ORGANIZATION

Join Us This #GivingTuesday in Exposing Organized Crime

24 NOV 2022

For over twelve years, InSight Crime has contributed to the global dialogue on organized crime and corruption. Our work has provided policymakers, analysts, academics, journalists, and the general public with…

THE ORGANIZATION

Like Crime, Our Coverage Knows No Borders

18 NOV 2022

The nature of global organized crime means that while InSight Crime focuses on Latin America, we also follow criminal dynamics worldwide. InSight Crime investigator Alessandro Ford covers the connections between Latin American and European…

THE ORGANIZATION

Using Data to Expose Crime

11 NOV 2022

Co-director Jeremy McDermott made a virtual presentation at a conference hosted by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The ‘Sixth International Conference on Governance, Crime, and Justice…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime ON AIR

4 NOV 2022

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley was interviewed for the podcast The Rosenberg Case: A Tale of Murder, Corruption, and Conspiracy in Guatemala, which explores the potential involvement of then president, Álvaro Colom,…