HomeNewsBriefMoney Laundering Case Spotlights Colombia Businesswoman's Paramilitary Ties
BRIEF

Money Laundering Case Spotlights Colombia Businesswoman's Paramilitary Ties

AUC / 4 JUN 2014 BY DANIELA CASTRO AND MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

Authorities in Colombia have arrested 11 people close to powerful businesswoman "La Gata" and seized many of her assets, as part of an ongoing drug money laundering investigation that has shed light on how this controversial figure used paramilitary ties to build her economic empire.

So far, Colombia's Prosecutor General's Office has seized 391 properties, 124 vehicles, 121 offices and seven businesses belonging to Enilce Lopez, alias "La Gata," which are worth a total of $500 million, reported El Tiempo. In addition, Lopez and 13 others in her inner circle face money laundering charges, including two of her children.

The seizures are based on years of investigations, during which authorities found evidence that La Gata used her gambling operations in various departments of Colombia's Atlantic Coast to launder drug money for former United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) leaders Salvatore Mancuso and Edward Cobos Tellez, alias "Diego Vecino," reported El Tiempo.

Lopez returned a percentage of the laundered funds to the paramilitary leaders, while she took the remaining profits, according to Colombian Police Chief Rodolfo Palomino.

Marta Elena Dereix, the ex-wife of Mancuso, has also been arrested for her role in the operation, reported EFE.

According to official estimates, Lopez laundered around $233 million in drug money between 2002 and 2007 through her lottery businesses.

InSight Crime Analysis

The accusations that La Gata and her associates have paramilitary ties are nothing new. At the beginning of 2011, Lopez was sentenced to nine years in prison for her links with paramilitaries in the northern departments of Bolivar and Sucre. However, the latest developments serve as further evidence of how her close collaboration with the top paramilitary leadership guaranteed her security and helped her businesses flourish, as well as marking an important step in the government's move to target her financial operations. 

In 2006, Lopez and her half brother Arquimedes Romero were arrested for alleged money laundering and in 2008 they were called to trial for the same case, but both were ultimately absolved. In 2009, Colombian authorities opened a money laundering case based on information provided by the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and a year later, 21 of Lopez's companies came under inspection.

SEE ALSO: United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) Profile

At that time, the DEA already possessed information about Lopez receiving bags of cash from paramilitaries, which were brought in armored vehicles to bank accounts linked to her various lottery businesses. This information was later corroborated by paramilitary testimonies.

Despite the numerous probes and the evidence, the recent asset seizures represent the first major hit on the illicit financial empire of La Gata, who -- in addition to her 2011 sentence -- was handed 37 years in prison in 2013 for the 2000 murder of a security guard, but has since been in the hospital.

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 / 10 DEC 2018

A recent meeting in Venezuela between the leaders of two Colombian guerrilla groups may signal consolidated organized crime activities in…

EL SALVADOR / 17 DEC 2020

As El Salvador battles widespread allegations of fraud during the coronavirus pandemic, its most senior police official is now accused…

CONTRABAND / 2 AUG 2017

Guatemala's Defense Minister has denounced that criminal groups continue to infiltrate the country's customs system, suggesting that deeper structural…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Apure Investigation Makes Headlines

22 OCT 2021

InSight Crime’s investigation into the battle for the Venezuelan border state of Apure resonated in both Colombian and Venezuelan media. A dozen outlets picked up the report, including Venezuela’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.