One of Colombia's foremost drug traffickers and money launderers has been assassinated in Bogotá, leaving important unanswered questions about his own criminal past and who might have been after him.
On the morning of July 16, Luis Agustín Caicedo Velandia, alias “Don Lucho,” was shot dead by two gunmen in Teusaquillo, a district in the north of the Colombian capital, Bogotá. One of his lawyers was also killed.
Caicedo Velandia was a highly successful drug trafficker and money launderer who shipped tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine to the United States and Europe. His relatively low profile saw him considered as one of Colombia's "invisible" drug kingpins.
It is believed he laundered up to $1.5 billion in drug proceeds between 2005 and 2009, a feat even honored by the Guinness World Records.
He was captured in Argentina in 2010 and was extradited to the United States where he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for trafficking cocaine. He was released in 2019 after collaborating with authorities and it is believed he returned to Colombia.
Caicedo Velandia was a close ally of Daniel Barrera, alias "El Loco Barrera," who became one of Colombia's principal drug traffickers by forging links first with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia - FARC), and later with the right-wing paramilitary army known as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia - AUC). Caicedo Velandia worked with a similarly extensive list of contacts, which helped him move drugs through Central America, Mexico, Venezuela and the Caribbean.
During his time in the United States, Caicedo Velandia cooperated extensively with authorities to secure a reduced sentence, providing them with key information to dismantle organized crime rings.
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The true extent of Caicedo Velandia's involvement in the international drug trade remains a mystery. Despite earning a fortune reaching into the hundreds of millions of dollars and having connections to the likes of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias "El Chapo," he led his drug trafficking empire discreetly.
Such links were discovered by chance when a cocaine-laden submarine he sent from Colombia to the United States on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel was intercepted.
They would become even clearer when Caicedo Velandia was included on the witness list during the landmark trial of Guzmán Loera, although he did not testify.
His knowledge of the region's criminal dynamics allowed him to hand over a list of 126 names to US authorities, including members of his own criminal organization and those of his rivals, as well as drug trafficking routes and the locations of safe houses.
It is possible that the 2012 arrest in Venezuela of his old ally, "El Loco Barrera," was made possible due to information provided by Caicedo Velandia himself.
It is still unknown why he was gunned down in Bogotá, but his extensive criminal connections and his cooperation with US authorities are likely to have made him plenty of enemies. Don Lucho was not able to remain invisible forever.
Colombian police also recently arrested another so-called "invisible," Guillermo León Acevedo Giraldo, alias "Memo Fantasma." He also hid in the shadows, for years shielding his drug trafficking empire and connections to a number of criminal groups.