Colombian authorities are investigating Victor Carranza, a prominent businessman who dominates the nation’s emerald industry, to determine if he had links to anti-government paramilitary groups.
Prosecutors suspect that Carranza may have financed some of the right-wing militant organizations during the 1980s and 1990s, citing testimony and evidence from imprisoned paramilitary members.
One of Carranza’s principal accusers is former paramilitary leader Fredy Rendon Herrera, also known as “The German.” In connection with his de-mobilization from the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), a paramilitary umbrella group, Herrera reportedly told investigators that Carranza was a principal financial backer of the paramilitaries.
At first, the group was supported by local cattle ranchers, land owners and businessmen... Later, it was mainly financed by the logistical and financial support of the emerald dealer Victor Carranza, a known member and supporter of the Autodefensas de Henry Perez [paramilitary group[, and co-founder in 1997 of the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, Rendon said, according to BBC.
Carranza has denied the allegations.
However, these charges are not new. Carranza, who owns several emerald mines in Colombia, has long denied having any links to the paramilitaries, citing, among other things, that he has been targeted for assassination by them.
Paramilitary groups also tried to extort him, Carranza claimed.
These militant entities were originally organized to fight left-wing rebel groups in Colombia – but they eventually resorted to drug trafficking and extortion to fund their activities. Paramilitaries are believed to have committed many atrocities and massacres during their reign of terror. They finally demobilized in 2006 under terms of a government peace treaty.
Insight Crime reported that Carranza, who is a millionaire many times over, has survived a number of assassination attempts over the past three decades, and has also largely avoided attempts by the government to prosecute him.
Apparently, Carranaza has financed right-wing military groups in order to protect his lucrative emerald mines from incursions by leftist rebels and drug traffickers.
Carranza actually was imprisoned for three years in 1998 on charges of drug trafficking – but was later cleared of all charges and compensated by the state for wrongful incarceration.
BBC reported that Colombia accounts for about 60 percent of global emerald production.