HomeNewsBriefTell-All Interview Exposes Details of Colombia’s Cocaine Trade
BRIEF

Tell-All Interview Exposes Details of Colombia’s Cocaine Trade

COLOMBIA / 2 NOV 2017 BY TRISTAN CLAVEL EN

A Colombian drug trafficker offered juicy details on his work during a remarkable interview that provides a panoramic view of Colombia’s drug trade.

A captured drug trafficker known by the alias “Camilo,” who spent nearly a decade coordinating cocaine shipments for some of Colombia’s most powerful drug trafficking groups, recounted from personal experience the inner workings of the cocaine trade in an interview with El Tiempo published on November 2. Camilo spoke to the news outlet in Bogotá, where he is cooperating with Colombian authorities as part of a plea deal.

The former shipment coordinator said that the first step in the trafficking process consisted of being contacted by a client, usually an intermediary working for a large drug trafficking organization such as the Urabeños, who typically would solicit his help sending drugs to the United States or Europe.

Then, Camilo said, he would reach out to corrupt government contacts.

“I work with logistical operators from customs who tell me which containers will be available for a certain destination, at a certain date, with a certain route and with a specific vessel,” he explained.

Camilo said he would then turn to his contacts within the anti-narcotic police to check whether the officers on duty that day could be bribed. He would also obtain confirmation that the company in whose containers the drugs were to be placed did not raise any flags that could warrant an unexpected security check. If so, the plan was redrawn.

If all went well, Camilo said, he would receive payment for his services via a money laundering scheme that operated through a chain of supermarkets. The store would receive payment for the drugs in euros or dollars, depending on where the shipment landed, and would subsequently pay Camilo in Colombian pesos.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Money Laundering

But all didn’t always go well.

“The most I had to pay once was 3.5 billion pesos [around $1.1 million] for 820 kilograms of cocaine that anti-narcotic police seized in the port of Cartagena,” Camilo said, adding that he was held responsible if something went wrong. “I had to pay back everything, and they gave me fifteen days. It was pay up or die.”

At times, the drugs had to be stored for a while before being shipped. Following a multi-ton seizure in Panama, a client had asked Camilo to stall the shipment, because the price of the drug had dropped.

“In Panama a kilogram of cocaine costs $4,500, but since authorities are so corrupt, when they seize a go-fast boat with a metric ton, they sell the drugs themselves and that brings the price down.”

On average, Camilo said that he typically earned monthly profits of between 600 and 700 million pesos ($200,000 to $230,000).

“I’m against sending large quantities, I prefer shipments of half a ton,” he said. “To launch that quantity from the port can cost around 2.2 billion pesos [around $720,000]. I’m left with around 500 million [roughly $165,000], after deducting the costs.”

When asked whether the drug trade might one day end, Camilo answered that this would be “impossible.”

“An anti-narcotic officer who earns [a monthly salary of] 1.4 million pesos [$460], or an operator in charge of supervising the cargo, you tell him: ‘Look, here are 10 million pesos [$3,300] so that you don’t check a container. And if it launches, more will come,'” Camilo explained, referring to the almost irresistable financial incentives traffickers can offer to authorities.

He also said that anyone who refuses to go along gets “adjusted” by the criminal groups.

InSight Crime Analysis

In addition to insightful anecdotes and details about the financial aspects of his former occupation, the interview with Camilo paints a broader picture of Colombia’s cocaine trade. Nearly all the major components of the business are mentioned: the production of coca crops, the raw material for cocaine; shipping methods and routes that often pass through Central America; and the money laundering methods used to conceal related financial transactions.

SEE ALSO: Colombia News and Profiles

However, a particular element of the trade stands out in the discussion; namely, corruption. In addition to illustrating the magnitude of this problem, which stretches across borders, the interview with Camilo serves as a reminder that no large-scale drug smuggling operation can be carried out without the help of colluding officials.

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 / 12 MAY 2011

Reheated reports that Colombia's biggest guerrilla group the FARC trained pro-Chavez militia groups in Venezuela, while not new, are a…

COLOMBIA / 1 SEP 2017

A top commander of Colombia's most powerful crime group has been killed during a security operation, marking a new…

COLOMBIA / 23 JAN 2018

Fighting between criminal groups in Colombia displaced more than 1,000 people in just four days, signaling a new generation…

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…