An ex-paramilitary fighter has claimed that part of his former group’s funding came from the looting of emerald mines in the department of Boyaca with the full knowledge of the mine’s owner, “emerald czar” Victor Carranza, El Tiempo reported Tuesday.
The former paramilitary, speaking under the condition of anonymity, told the Justice and Peace Unit two weeks ago that prior to his demobilization, he was a member of the Peasant Self-Defense Units of Meta and Vichada (ACMV) who were allowed the opportunity once every three months to find emeralds in Carranza’s mines.
“We were allowed to go where he [Corranza] had mines in Boyaca … They would give us what had been cut and what we got would finance us,” the paramilitary said.
The testimony given also implicates the former leader of the ACMV, Jose Baldomero Linares, alias “Guillermo Torres,” who has previously denied having known or met Corranza before the Justice and Peace Unit.
Numerous demobilized paramilitaries have stated however that Torres used a farm in Brazil belonging to Carranza to train soldiers for the massacres that took place in Mapiripan in 1997 and Cano Soap in 1998.
Carranza has claimed in the past that neither he nor the farm’s manager were able to resist the occupation by the paramilitaries.
Prosecutors from the Justice and Peace Unit are now putting together various testimonies that mention Carranza’s links to paramilitaries, before considering how to proceed.
Carranza, a major name in international emerald trading, spent almost four years in jail between February 1998 and December 2001 under suspicion of the forming of paramilitary squads. However, after having served the nearly four years, he was absolved of these charges and in May 2008, the Administrative Tribunal of Cundinamarca was ordered to indemnify the emerald trader for unjust imprisonment.
Early last year, Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon ordered that Carranza be extradited for his ties to paramilitaries. This request was annulled five months later however by the High Court in Madrid
The emerald czar has always maintained that he was the victim of extortion by paramilitary groups operating in the regions where his mines were.