Colombia’s notary watchdog body has identified almost 300,000 acres of land in the country that have been seized illegally by armed groups and “white collar” criminals, El Colombiano reported Wednesday.
Of the 300,000 illegally seized acres, 60% was taken from the state, according to notary office head Jorge Enrique Velez.
In response, the notary’s office has formed an “elite group” made up of lawyers, social workers and anthropologists who are combing the nation to find land that has been unlawfully appropriated.
The most significant case of land re-appropriation so far took place after the death of drug lord Pedro Oliveiro Guerrero alias “Cuchillo” in December, when some 40,000 acres were reclaimed by the state.
These situations of usurped land “could not have been detected without the Democratic Security policy because our officials could not have reached these places without being attacked,” Velez told the newspaper.
Many Colombians have been displaced by violence or white collar crime and in late January the U.N. and the Colombian government agreed on security measures to help displaced persons during the process of land restitution.