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Memo Fantasma Wants Out of Prison in Colombia

COCAINE / 29 SEP 2021 BY JEREMY MCDERMOTT* EN

Accused paramilitary drug lord “Memo Fantasma,” or “Will the Ghost,” has petitioned a judge to be let out of a Colombian prison while he awaits trial. Worth millions of dollars and with contacts across the globe, Memo Fantasma is the definition of a flight risk.

Guillermo León Acevedo, alias “Memo Fantasma,” has petitioned to be released from a high-security prison in Bogotá, where he is awaiting trial after his June arrest on charges of money laundering, criminal conspiracy and illicit enrichment. Acevedo has denied the charges.

There are also open investigations into his role as a member of the paramilitary army of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia – AUC), responsible for massacres and crimes against humanity. Paramilitary sources stated that Acevedo moved up to 100 tons of cocaine, worth up to $3 billion, during his time with the AUC.

In the interests of full disclosure and transparency, Jeremy McDermott, co-founder and co-director of InSight Crime and author of this article, 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 claims of libel and many of the accusations in the articles form the basis of the arrest warrant and case presented by the Colombian Attorney General’s office against Acevedo.

The hearing on the matter was to be held at Bogota’s Municipal Criminal Court #46 on September 30, according to a court docket. The hearing, however, was moved to October 28, according to a spokesman from the court. The presiding judge is Carlos Alberto Chaparro Martínez.

Acevedo is standing trial with his mother, Margoth de Jesus Giraldo, and his grandmother, Maria Enriqueta Ramírez, both of whom are accused of laundering funds using a series of properties and businesses. They have also refused the charges.

The judge will decide at the hearing whether to keep Acevedo in pre-trial detention or place him under house arrest. His mother and grandmother are currently under house arrest.

More than two million dollars’ worth of properties belonging to Acevedo have already been seized, and the proceeds of their sale are destined for victims of Colombia’s civil conflict.

Acevedo has a valid visa for Spain, where he lived for many years before his capture in Bogota and where his wife, Catalina Mejía Acosta, is still a resident.  He has several properties in Spain.

One former drug trafficking partner of Acevedo, “Vicente,” with whom InSight Crime has been in contact for some time and who has so far proved himself an accurate and verifiable source, stated that he had credible information that “Memo has up to 300 million euros invested in Europe.”

Acevedo also has top-level social and political connections. He was linked to current Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez and her husband, Alvaro Rincón, in an office development in Bogota, Torre 85, through which Acevedo was allegedly able to launder millions of drug dollars. Vice President Ramírez, like Acevedo, presented a criminal libel suit against the author. She later dropped it after InSight Crime refused to change any of our reporting.

Acevedo was part of a notorious paramilitary group linked to massacres and murders, outlined during Acevedo’s initial appearance on June 28, immediately after his arrest. Prosecutor Juan David Huepe presented the charges, explaining how Acevedo was 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.

During the hearing, prosecutors asked for pre-trial detention amid evidence that Acevedo was seeking to tamper with the justice system.

“One of the reasons for requesting the intramural security measure is the possibility that third parties obstruct justice in favor of the accused,” reads the court transcript, referring to the fact that a functionary of the Attorney General’s Office was allegedly offered a bribe of 100 million pesos (about $26,000) to provide documents and evidence relevant to the Acevedo case.

Another reason for pre-trial detention presented by Prosecutor Huepe was Acevedo’s extensive travel. He cited migration records that showed Acevedo has been in and out of Colombia more than 160 times since 2001. Even amid travel restrictions during the pandemic, Acevedo was able “to travel to Madrid and come here,” Prosecutor Huepe told the judge.

Also during the initial hearing, the prosecutor revealed that another paramilitary leader, Rodrigo Perez Alzate, alias "Julian Bolivar," one of the top military commanders of the BCB, said that he had received threats in 2015 after making declarations about Acevedo as part of the AUC peace process.

*This article was updated to include new information that the court hearing has been rescheduled for October 28.

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