The Colombian army captured Thursday a wanted lawyer who allegedly helped right-wing paramilitaries strip land from inhabitants of the western department of Choco, according to local news sources.
Mario Alberto Velez Giraldo was reportedly an associate of “Casa Castano,” the name given to the founding members of the now defunct paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC), and a group which had close relations with ex bosses Carlos and Fidel Castano.
Giraldo also worked for the Colombian rural development institute (INCODER), allegedly using his position to legalize the theft of at least 5000 hectares of land from Afrocolombian communities living in Curvarado and Jiguamiando in Choco.
According to Semana, Giraldo has been under investigation since 2007 and on the run since 2010. He is wanted on charges of “conspiracy, forced displacement and invasion of areas of special ecological importance.”
The coming prosecution of Giraldo is just the tip of the iceberg in a case which prosecutors say may involve up to 70 people for land theft in the region, including former paramilitaries, businessmen, farmers, public servants and INCODER employees.
This is not the first time INCODER has been embroiled in a corruption scandal; a number of the organization’s officials are currently under investigation for land theft in the North-Western department of Antioquia.