HomeNewsColombia's Prison Corruption Exposed as Top Trafficker Strolls Out

Colombia's Prison Corruption Exposed as Top Trafficker Strolls Out


A top Colombian drug trafficker walked out of a maximum-security prison in Bogotá without ever being challenged, exposing deep-seated corruption and threatening important criminal cases.

On the morning of March 18, Juan Larinson Castro Estupiñán, alias “Matamba,” escaped from prison by wearing a security guard outfit and walking through several security checkpoints, according to Justice Minister Wilson Ruiz on Twitter. Matamba was the former leader of Cordillera Sur, a drug trafficking gang based in the southern department of Nariño, and which was a sub-structure of the larger Urabeños criminal group.

Video footage from the prison released to the media show Matamba, in a uniform, walking past cameras and checkpoints. Prison officials noticed his absence when they performed a daily headcount in the wing where he was housed.

SEE ALSO: Profile of the Urabeños - Gulf Cartel

Matamba maintained strict control over drug trafficking in much of the southwest department of Nariño. He was a reportedly close ally of former Urabeños leader, Dairo Antonio Úsuga, alias “Otoniel,” who was captured last October after a multi-year manhunt.

Investigators linked Matamba to cocaine deals with the National Liberation Army (Ejército de Liberación Nacional - ELN), dissidents from the now-demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel.

Matamba was captured on May 7, 2021 in the central department of Santander on charges of homicide and extortion, among others.

InSight Crime Analysis

Matamba's escape reveals once again the depths of corruption in Colombian prisons and also puts in jeopardy a number of important criminal cases in which he was involved.

While the investigation into his escape has just begun, it seems difficult to believe that Matamba could have carried out his plan, wearing a prison guard uniform and walking past multiple controls, without inside help.

And La Picota prison is getting quite a reputation. In March, an investigation by Colombian media, Caracol, revealed that Carlos Mattos, a businessman awaiting trial on bribery charges, was going in and out of the prison at will to have private meetings in his office in Bogotá.

Officials inside the prison were found to have been assisting him and Colombia's President Iván Duque fired the head of the country's prison service.

SEE ALSO: Top Ex-Colombian Officers' Trafficking Case Recalls Past Abuses

A more severe ramification may be that Matamba's escape weakens the case against high military commanders alleged to have participated in the drug trade. In February, a retired general and two retired colonels were accused of having helped Matamba consolidate control of drug trafficking along the Pacific coast of Nariño by providing him with military intelligence

Matamba had been jailed 14 times in the past and was facing likely extradition to the United States.

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.


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.


Related Content

ECUADOR / 10 MAY 2022

Ecuador has seen its sixth large-scale prison massacre since the start of 2021, with at least 44 prisoners being killed…

COLOMBIA / 14 OCT 2022

ELN fighting has reduced in most of Colombia following peace talk commitments, but in Arauca, the group remains active.

COCAINE / 20 JUN 2022

Gustavo Petro will be Colombia's next president. Cocaine, Venezuela, deforestation - criminal challenges face him in droves.

About InSight Crime


Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…


Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…


World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…


InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…


Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…