HomeNewsBriefColombia Trafficker Tied to International Corruption, Money Laundering

An investigation with ramifications across the Americas has culminated in the arrest of an old-school Colombian drug trafficker who managed to adapt to major evolutions in regional criminal dynamics, in part by following in the footsteps of other similar figures.

Colombian authorities arrested José Bayron Piedrahita Ceballos in his luxurious country home in the department of Antioquia in the early morning hours of September 29, reported El Tiempo. Piedrahita, a business tycoon and Colombian national, was charged last week with obstruction of justice and corruption in a US federal court.

The US indictment argues that Piedrahita bribed a special agent from the United States' Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) unit, a sub-agency within the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, with cash, liquor and a sex worker during a trip to the Colombian capital Bogotá. In return, the ICE agent allegedly corrupted records and misled several other US officials from different agencies. These actions allegedly contributed to a judge's decision to close a 1996 indictment against 18 alleged members of the Cali Cartel, including Piedrahita.

However, the respite was short-lived for the man accused of having worked for essentially all major Colombian drug trafficking groups since the Medellín Cartel. By May 2016, Piedrahita's name was added to the US Treasury Department's so-called "Kingpin List" for his ties to the Medellín-based Oficina de Envigado crime network.

While Colombian authorities proceeded with Piedrahita's arrest, their Argentine counterparts executed 33 search warrants targeting a money laundering network allegedly run by Piedrahita. La Nación reported that $15 million was seized from the network, whose laundering vehicles allegedly included a trendy Buenos Aires cafe and a government railroad construction program.

InSight Crime Analysis

Piedrahita is an example of the remarkable resistance and adaptability of certain drug trafficking figures who manage to survive across criminal eras. Such actors often succeed in staying in the dangerous game of the international drug business through a mix of corruption, stealth and cunning, as was the case with Brazil's "Cabeça Branca," arrested earlier this year.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Money Laundering

Piedrahita is also the latest in a series of foreign capos to have sought refuge for themselves or their drug profits in Argentina. There is a long list of Colombian and Mexican drug lords who have retired in Argentina, sometimes with their families, likely due to the generally high quality of life there as well as loose protections against money laundering.

Argentina has taken some recent steps to improve its ability to detect and deter illicit financial flows, but shortcomings remain. Between 2000 and 2014, of the 90,000 reports of suspicious financial activities received by Argentina's overarching financial regulatory agency (Unidad de Información Financiera), only 7,000 where investigated for only 18 fines, four convictions, and one prison sentence. This generalized impunity is likely one of the reasons that explains why Argentina remains one of the region's nations most at risk of money laundering, according to a recent report by the Basel Institute for Governance.

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 / 20 JUL 2017

A new report on the main successes and shortcomings of Colombia's historic peace process with the FARC guerrilla group shows…

ARGENTINA / 31 OCT 2014

A report on the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner looks at three scandals involving corruption, money laundering, and…

ARGENTINA / 7 MAY 2021

The cat-and-mouse game of evading law enforcement was taken literally by drug smugglers recently in Panama, who hid cocaine on…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Combating Environmental Crime in Colombia

15 JUN 2021

InSight Crime presented findings from an investigation into the main criminal activities fueling environmental destruction in Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Collaborating on Citizen Security Initiatives

8 JUN 2021

Co-director Steven Dudley worked with Chemonics, a DC-based development firm, to analyze the organization’s citizen security programs in Mexico.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Deepens Its Connections with Universities

31 MAY 2021

A partnership with the University for Peace will complement InSight Crime’s research methodology and expertise on Costa Rica.

THE ORGANIZATION

With Support from USAID, InSight Crime Will Investigate Organized Crime in Haiti

31 MAY 2021

The project will seek to map out Haiti's principal criminal economies, profile the specific groups and actors, and detail their links to elements of the state.

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.