Five months after Spanish judge Balthasar Garzon ordered the extradition of Colombia’s controversial “emerald czar” Victor Carranza for alleged paramilitary links, the National Court in Madrid has annulled the investigation against him, El Tiempo reported on Monday.
Carranza, who was accused of connections with paramilitary figures Victor Manuel and Miguel Angel Mejia, known together as “Los Mellizos.”
Spanish prosecutors have now dropped the charges after it was established that Carranza had been in prison in 1999 at the time a witness accused him of talking to the paramilitaries.
A letter from prosecutor Luis Ibañez, quoted by El Tiempo, states “It does not seem to add up that Carranza was in jail in Colombia on the dates which coincided with the actions complained of.”
The same argument was used to defend the emerald trader against recent allegations of an alleged meeting with convicted paramilitary leader Freddy “El Aleman” Rendon in Boyaca, where Carranza owns several emerald mines
Evidence presented before Spanish courts saw Carranza acquitted of two counts of sponsoring paramilitary groups. The Spanish National Court has instead decided to refer the proceedings to Colombia, to assess if it seems appropriate to investigate the issue further.
In 2002 Judge Garzon accused Carranza of laundering drug money through a Spanish bank, but the case was also dropped. Jorge Alirio Roa, representing Carranza, complained that the repeated accusations of drug-trafficking and money laundering had seen his client “stigmatized nationally and internationally.”
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 nearly four years, the businessman was absolved of these charges and in May 2008, the Administrative Tribunal of Cundinamarca was ordered to indemnify the emerald trader for unjust imprisonment.
Carranza remains a highly controversial figure. In July last year he was the victim of an alleged attack by notorious paramilitary leader Pedro Olivero Guerrero, alias “El Cuchillo” over territory in the department of Boyaca.