Accused paramilitary drug lord Guillermo León Acevedo, alias "Memo Fantasma," will remain in a high-security Colombian prison, where he has been jailed for the past four months.
Acevedo's lawyers had petitioned for him to be released from pre-trial detention. But Judge Carlos Alberto Chaparro Martínez ruled October 28 that he should remain in jail to await trial on money laundering, criminal conspiracy, and illicit enrichment charges. Acevedo has denied the charges against him.
On July 3, Acevedo was placed in pre-trial detention in Bogotá's La Modelo prison. Prosecutor Juan David Huepe had previously argued that Acevedo was a flight risk due to his wealth and ability to travel.
After Acevedo's June arrest, Huepe told the court that Acevedo had an extensive record of entering and exiting Colombia, with records showing some 160 exits since 2001. Even amid travel restrictions during the pandemic, Acevedo was able "to travel to Madrid and come here," Huepe said.
Acevedo has a valid visa for Spain, where he has several properties and lived for many years before his capture in Bogotá.
In the previous hearings, prosecutors also argued that Acevedo warranted pre-trial detention amid evidence that he was seeking to tamper with the justice system, including offering a bribe of 100 million pesos (about $26,000) to a functionary at the Attorney General's Office to provide documents and evidence relevant to the case.
In addition, prosecutors alleged Acevedo threatened a former paramilitary said to have provided information against him. Acevedo was part of Colombia's former paramilitary army, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia - AUC), serving as the financial head of one of the most powerful paramilitary divisions or "blocs," the Central Bolívar Bloc (Bloque Central Bolívar – BCB), which demobilized over 5,000 fighters and controlled some of Colombia's most significant drug trafficking real estate. It was also responsible for murdering thousands of Colombians.
Rodrigo Perez Alzate, alias "Julian Bolivar," one of the leaders of the BCB, said that he had received threats in 2015 after making declarations about Acevedo as part of the AUC peace process in the mid-2000s, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors have sought the testimony of five former paramilitaries in the case against Acevedo, including former top AUC commander Salvatore Mancuso.
Acevedo is standing trial with his mother, Margoth de Jesus Giraldo, and his grandmother, Maria Enriqueta Ramírez, who are also charged with money laundering and illicit enrichment. They have also refused the charges. In the October 28 hearing, the judge also ruled that they will remain under house arrest.
In a 30-page charging document filed on October 20, prosecutors allege that Acevedo and his family have laundered more than 54 billion Colombian pesos (about $14.5 million) through dozens of properties and businesses. They also have about 11.9 billion pesos ( about $3.2 million) in unexplained wealth, prosecutors said.
Acevedo escaped prosecution for decades before being identified as a businessman living in Spain. Acevedo's shadow life first came to light following an article in El Espectador in 2015 and later following a more extensive, two-year, six-part investigation published by InSight Crime in March 2020.
*InSight Crime Co-director Jeremy McDermott is currently facing criminal libel proceedings brought by Guillermo Acevedo for the series, "The Invisible Drug Lord: Hunting the Ghost." Acevedo has yet to provide any basis for his libel claims.