Colombia prosecutors seize $98M in FARC assets

Colombian authorities seized $98 million worth of assets belonging to the demobilizing FARC rebel group, the country’s chief prosecutor said Thursday.

Most of the seized property was war booty derived from drug trafficking, extortion or illegal mining, Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez said at a press conference.

A joint operation between the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the Armed Forces, the Police and the Superintendent of Notaries led to the recovery of some 277 thousand hectares of the land, which had been in the hands of the FARC and dissident groups.

This would be more than half of the FARC’s total land property, considering President Juan Manuel Santos said earlier the FARC owned approximately 500 thousand hectares.

The prosecution chief said his office was not just targeting the FARC, but also splinter groups that have refused to take part in the ongoing demobilization, disarmament and reintegration process.

The FARC are disbanding under a peace deal signed in November 2016, but a number of dissident groups formed. Many of them now have control of illegal economies that were previously managed by the FARC’s central command.

The Prosecutor General’s Office said it confiscated six rural properties and four companies in the department of Vichada, valued at $2 millions, where illegal exploitation of tungsten and coltan was carried out by the dissident “Acacio Medina” Front.

“This illegal activity was legalized through a mining title located in Cumaribo (Vichada), when in fact the tungsten and the coltan were extracted from the mine Cerro Tigre located in the natural park of Puinawai in Guainía. In this way they exported over 350 tons of minerals, valued at $1.7 millions,” Martinez was quoted as saying by newspaper El Colombiano.

Other lands, controlled by the 1st, 7th, 10th and 40th fronts, were located in the provinces of Bolivar, Meta and Arauca.

The Prosecutor General stressed that his office will not allow the peace process with the FARC to be used to legalize illicit assets obtained as war trophies.

“Article 41 of the law on amnesty and pardon establishes that these do not extend to the assets of the beneficiaries,” Martinez was quoted as saying in El Colombiano.

During Colombia’s conflict, particularly since the late 1990s when paramilitary groups began fighting the FARC, millions of mostly rural Colombians were displaced. In total, authorities believe that during these years of bloody warfare, 8 million hectares, the equivalent of 15% of Colombia’s national territory, was stolen or illegally changed owner.

In the peace deal, the FARC agreed to surrender its assets while the government vowed to prosecute officials and private parties accused of having stolen land.

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