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Last Updated:3/16/01
Fact Sheet: U.S. Department of Justice Law Enforcement Projects Under Plan Colombia, March 12, 2001
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
March 12, 2001
U.S. LAW ENFORCEMENT PROJECTS UNDER PLAN COLOMBIA

As part of the United States Government's $1.3 billion program under Plan Colombia, the Department of Justice, in coordination with the Department of Treasury, has designed an $88 million technical assistance program to strengthen the Colombian justice sector and its institutions, with particular focus on enhancing Colombian law enforcement capability. This coordinated U.S. law enforcement effort involves most of the U.S. Federal law enforcement agencies in the Departments of Justice and Treasury, i.e., DEA, FBI, U.S. Marshal Service, Bureau of Prisons, U.S. Customs Service, IRS, Secret Service, ATF, Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, United States Attorney's Offices, Office of Enforcement of the Department of Treasury, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard. The program consists of 12 interrelated project areas ranging from developing human rights task forces to combating organized financial crime to joint case investigations and prosecutions to witness and judicial officer protection. Most of these projects expand upon programs and/or law enforcement relations existing prior to Plan Colombia.

United States law enforcement personnel, including Assistant United States Attorneys, assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, and on temporary assignment, are administering the program. A senior Assistant United States Attorney will be posted in the Embassy to coordinate this interagency law enforcement effort.

The counterpart Colombian justice sector officials working in close coordination with the Departments of Justice and Treasury include the Ministry of Justice, Prosecutor General's Office (Fiscalia), Attorney General's Office (Procuradoria), DAS, CTI (Cuerpo Tecnica de Investigaciones), National Police, DNE (Direccion Nacional de Estupefacientes), Colombian Customs, Colombian Navy and Colombian Coast Guard.

Also of significance is the immediate success of bilateral law enforcement efforts, particularly under the Multilateral Case Initiative project, but also in the area of extraditions where Colombia has demonstrated remarkable courage and effort in extraditing its nationals.

DETAILED U.S. LAW ENFORCEMENT PROJECTS

1. Establish CNP/Fiscalia Human Rights Units. The Department of Justice will establish and train new "vetted" Colombian law enforcement task forces (and expand the existing national task force) specializing in the investigation and prosecution of alleged human rights violations. Modeled after the highly successful U.S. organized crime task forces, these Colombia law enforcement task forces consist of trained prosecutors and investigators who work in a task force setting to investigate and prosecute those alleged to have committed or directed human rights abuses or related serious criminal offenses. In addition to the specialized human rights task forces, other Colombian law enforcement task forces specializing in anti-corruption, asset forfeiture/money laundering, and counter- narcotics will be cross-trained on the unique aspects related to the investigation and prosecution of human rights-related cases.

The goal of this project is to develop Colombian law enforcement forensic, investigative and prosecution capabilities involving serious felonies committed with political overtones. The training and technical assistance is focused on developing the capability of the units to successfully investigate and prosecute complex and highly sensitive criminal cases.

2. Criminal Code Reform. The Department of Justice will support Colombia's transition to a modern accusatorial system of criminal justice. Funding will assist Colombia in implementing and modifying, as necessary, its recently enacted criminal procedure code, criminal code and related statutes. Implementation will include: (1) introduction and training in oral, accusatory, and transparent trial procedures in which an accused is afforded the right to confront the evidence against him/her; and (2) adoption and implementation of effective investigative techniques, which provide prosecutors and investigators the ability to undertake investigative activities, pursuant to appropriate judicial authorization, without revealing the existence of the investigation to its target.

Criminal code and legislative reform are cornerstones to an effective criminal justice system. Such reforms are essential for Colombia to develop the capacity to confront serious crimes, including sophisticated criminal conspiracies in the areas of narcotics, money laundering, human rights abuses, and corruption.

3. Prosecutor Training. The Department of Justice will assist the Colombian Prosecutor General in developing the capabilities of Colombian prosecutors to improve their timeliness and performance in investigation, indictment, prosecution, and adjudication of criminal cases. This is particularly important in light of the recent legal and procedural changes that require greater rigor on the part of Colombian prosecutors, especially in human rights cases. This training includes technical assistance and is geared toward developing effective prosecutors, specifically developing their prosecutorial decision-making, their interaction with police investigators, their ability to develop sound investigation strategies, particularly in complex cases, and to lay the foundation for oral trials.

4. Asset Forfeiture-Money-Laundering Task Force. The Department of Justice will assist the Colombian Government in the following areas:

• Asset Forfeiture/Money Laundering Task Force. The Department of Justice will assist the Colombian Prosecutor General's Office in enhancing the capability of the national Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Task Force in the investigation and prosecution of money laundering and other financial crimes and the forfeiture of the instrumentalities and ill-gotten gains of narcotics and related crimes. This unit is modeled after the highly successful U.S. organized crime task forces, and consists of trained prosecutors and investigators who will work in a task force setting. Training and technical assistance will include techniques necessary to conduct specialized financial investigations and prosecutions, management of complex financial information, as well as other sophisticated investigative techniques. The Colombian Asset Forfeiture/Money Laundering Units will work closely with U.S. law enforcement agencies to develop joint investigations.

• Anti-Corruption Program. The Department of Justice will assist the Colombian Prosecutor General in enhancing the national Anti-Corruption task force which specializes in the investigation and prosecution of public corruption and related criminal offenses. Modeled after the highly successful U.S. organized crime task forces, the Colombian Anti-Corruption Units consists of trained prosecutors and investigators who work in a task force setting. The training and technical assistance is focused on developing the operational capability of the units to successfully investigate and prosecute complex public corruption criminal cases. Training and technical assistance will include techniques necessary to conduct specialized corruption-related investigations and prosecutions, as well as other sophisticated investigative techniques.

• Asset Management Program. The Department of Justice will assist the Colombian Government in developing effective systems for managing and disposing of seized and forfeited assets, similar to the asset management program administered by the U.S. Marshals Service in the U.S. Assistance will include the development of appropriate protocols, policies and procedures to establish an effective property management and disposal program for the particular types of assets targeted for forfeiture under the laws of Colombia. Assistance will also include training and program implementation and may expand to include planning, development or procurement of secure facilities and equipment for the safeguarding of assets in custody. Technical assistance will also focus on the importance of a system facilitating the use of seized assets to support ongoing law enforcement activities.

5. Financial Crime Program/Organized Financial Crime. The Departments of Treasury and Justice will assist the Government of Colombia in developing and enhancing programs to combat organized financial crime in Colombia. This assistance will focus on a comprehensive program to investigate and prosecute narcotics-related financial crimes, including the so-called Black Market Peso Exchange (BMPE), the trade-based money laundering scheme in which narcotics traffickers launder drug proceeds through the illicit importation of U.S. consumer goods to Colombia. The program will also entail measures directed against tax evasion, other types of money laundering, and financial institution fraud. In addition, assistance will focus on combating the counterfeiting of U.S. currency, as Colombia has the highest rate of counterfeiting of U.S. currency in South America. Other measures will focus on regulations and investigation of money remitters/currency exchange houses that form part of the BMPE, and other money laundering schemes.

The program will include training of both Colombian law enforcement officials and financial regulators. Components of the programs include: (1) support for the recently developed Colombian Financial Intelligence Unit, which has been modeled after its U.S. counterpart, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN); (2) support for specialized training for Colombian prosecutors and investigators to enable them to effectively use financial intelligence and information in complex investigations and prosecutions; (3) support for specialized training, hardware and software to Colombian financial sector regulators and institutions; (4) establishment of effective financial information exchange mechanisms between financial investigative entities in Colombia and their counterparts in the U.S. and elsewhere; (5) provision of training, equipment, and necessary operational support and resources. This program area, as with others, is focused on operational development of Colombian investigators and prosecutors.

6. Anti-Kidnaping Strategy. The Department of Justice will assist the Government of Colombia to develop and implement a comprehensive program to investigate and prosecute kidnaping and extortion. This program will include the establishment of an operations center to coordinate intelligence and information sharing related to kidnaping and extortion and the development of a national "vetted" Colombian law enforcement task force consisting of specially trained investigators and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute these crimes and to coordinate with existing Colombian anti-kidnapping units. The goal of this effort is to enhance the already existing Colombian capability in kidnaping investigations and prosecutions. Where appropriate, the task force will work closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, particularly in cases involving U.S. nationals.

7. Judicial Police Training Program. The Department of Justice will assist the Government of Colombia expand and support the recently established unified law enforcement training academy in Colombia. The academy will provide training to all Colombian police agencies in order to implement a standard curriculum developed with U.S. assistance. This curriculum is based on law enforcement needs, measured by success in the field, and taught by active and experienced prosecutors and police using actual case-specific scenarios. The goal of the training is to develop effective investigators and to lay the foundation for police agency involvement in specialized investigative units. In addition, specialized areas of investigation will be included to address operation specific needs of the police. The technical police curriculum will be enhanced through the participation of judges, prosecutors, and others to ensure that graduates are informed of human rights law, oral court procedures, and other reforms that are coming into place in Colombia. The integrated approach to reform of administration of justice in Colombia includes the professionalization of police investigators.

8. Witness and Judicial Security and Witness/Judicial Security Human Rights Cases. The Department of Justice will assist the Government of Colombia in developing and enhancing existing programs for witness and judicial security protection, especially those related to human rights cases in Colombia. Assistance will include support for operational resource requirements, including direct financial support to protection and security operations in Colombia and the provision of operational services and specialized equipment.

9. Maritime Enforcement and Port Security. The Departments of Justice and Treasury will assist the Government of Colombia in the development of a comprehensive maritime enforcement and port security program in Colombia, including coordination of maritime and port security authorities with the Colombian Anti-Narcotics police, the Navy and Coast Guard, the Counter- narcotics Task Forces, the Customs Police, the Financial Intelligence Unit, and the Prosecutor General's Office. The maritime enforcement and port security program will monitor and adjust as appropriate the relationships and division of responsibilities between the Colombian Prosecutor General's Office and the Colombian Navy with respect to the collection, transfer and preservation of evidence. Training and technical assistance will be focused on preparing effective prosecutions. The Maritime Enforcement effort will also involve evidence collection and case development with the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. prosecutors in preparing criminal cases for trial in U.S. and/or Colombian courts. Support will include the provision of training, equipment, and necessary operational resources.

10. Multilateral Case Initiative. The Department of Justice will expand the U.S./Colombia cooperative initiative to investigate, prosecute and arrest transnational narcotics traffickers and money launderers and to collaborate with other nations in the Caribbean and Latin America in a multilateral and mutually supportive approach to the investigation, prosecution, and disposition of these cases. The initiative envisions joint targeting and investigative planning among participating national prosecution and investigative authorities to ensure optimal use of extradition in order to deny safe haven to traffickers and other major criminals and to ensure that these transnational criminals face justice in the most appropriate jurisdiction. The most well-known bilateral investigation leading to charges in the U.S. courts to date has been 'Operation Millennium'. Several other joint investigations are underway and this project will enable the program to expand and become even more effective. Support provided will include investigative planning and appropriate operational resources.

11. Prison Security Program. The Department of Justice will assist the Government of Colombia in enhancing the selection and training of Colombian correctional personnel and in implementing recommendations related to prison operations and security. The program will include evaluations and enhancements to medium and maximum prison facilities located throughout Colombia, with special emphasis on the maximum-security facilities used to house notorious narcotics traffickers being sought for extradition to the U.S., violent criminals, terrorists, guerrillas, paramilitaries, and others convicted of serious human rights abuses. In addition, the program will involve developing the capability to investigate criminal activity within the prisons and the development of evidence against serious offenders already incarcerated. Support will include the provision of subject matter expertise and assistance, training, equipment, and necessary operational support.

12. Training for Customs Police and Customs Training Assistance. The Department of Treasury will assist the Government of Colombia in providing training and technical assistance for the Customs Police affiliated with the Colombian Customs Service (DIAN). The scope of the assistance will include investigative, border inspection, and border control functions of the Customs Police, as well as specialized training with a practical and operational focus. Assistance will also focus on "peso brokering" and trade issues as well as enhancing counter- drug efforts and investigative capabilities. Certain other programs are designed to increase industry awareness of the threat posed by drug smugglers, and to increase the effectiveness of law enforcement officers to deter narcotics smuggling in commercial cargo shipments and conveyances. This is accomplished by assisting companies in improving their security, and assisting border enforcement agencies in improving their counter-narcotics and industry partnership programs.

SIGNIFICANT INVESTIGATIONS AND PROSECUTIONS

In the Multilateral Case Initiative (described above), the Department of Justice is currently engaged in investigations throughout the hemisphere. The following case summaries represent four of the cases within this Initiative.

1. United States v. John Guillermo Gomez-Ramirez: the Department of Justice has targeted the Colombia-based John Guillermo Gomez-Ramirez Organization, which transported, over the last eight years, approximately 10,000 kilograms of cocaine from Colombia to the U.S., using Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Guatemala as intermediary staging locations and transit routes. The Department of Justice obtained an indictment in the District of Colombia in November 1999, charging Gomez-Ramirez and five others with a conspiracy to distribute cocaine and other crimes. On February 9, 2000, Panamanian law enforcement authorities detained Gomez-Ramirez and Homes Valencia-Rios, and turned them over to DEA agents pursuant to an expulsion order. They were then transported to D.C. where they remain in custody awaiting trial.

2. United States v. Ivan De la Vega-Cabas et al.: In another investigation, the Department of Justice is focused on a major cocaine trafficking and transportation organization. Ivan De la Vega-Cabas, was responsible for coordinating the transportation of multi-thousand kilogram shipments of cocaine on vessels from Colombia to various countries, including the U.S. Two significant seizures of vessels were made in 1999: China Breeze, 5,000 kilograms in May 1999; and Pearl II, 2,000 kilograms in December 1999. On August 11, 2000, the Department of Justice obtained an indictment charging De la Vega-Cabas with a conspiracy to import cocaine. That same month, Venezuelan authorities arrested De la Vega-Cabas, pursuant to our provisional arrest request, as he attempted to return to Colombia and expelled him to the United States, where he is now in custody. Authorities seized approximately 8,800 kilograms of cocaine owned by Mejia-Munera, during the arrest.

Additionally, the Department of Justice seized the M/V Suerte I, which De la Vega-Cabas had planned to load with approximately 5,000 kilograms of cocaine before his arrest. The captain of that vessel was arrested and charged after the ship docked on September 2 in Houston. This investigation continues.

3. United States v. Yardena Hebroni: The Department of Justice also targeted Yardena Hebroni, the leader of a money laundering organization operating through her business, Speed Jewelers, in the Colon Free Zone in Panama. The organization used the jewelry and gold trade to launder millions of dollars of drug proceeds on behalf of Colombian drug trafficking organizations. Part of the scheme involved the Colombian Black Market Peso Exchange to disguise the illicit nature of the funds as payment for jewelry or gold. On September 15, 2000, the Department of Justice obtained an indictment charging Hebroni and her brother, Eliahu Mizrahi, with conspiracy to launder approximately $10,000,000, and with four substantive counts of money laundering. Pursuant to an arrest warrant obtained in conjunction with this indictment, Hebroni was arrested at the airport in Newark, New Jersey on September 17 after arriving on a flight from Panama. Shortly thereafter, a Panamanian prosecutor authorized the execution of search warrants at Hebroni's business and residence in Panama. A trial date has not been set.

4. "Operation Millennium", conducted under the aegis of the Multilateral Case Initiative, succeeded as a result of unprecedented cooperation between DEA, prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida, the Department of Justice's Criminal Division, the Colombian Fiscal General's Office and the Colombian National Police.

Millennium targeted the narcotics trafficking organization of Alejandro Bernal-Madrigal, a/k/a "Juvenal," who, prior to his arrest, was one of the most significant narcotics traffickers operating in Colombia since the Medellin and Cali Cartels were dismantled. Bernal-Madrigal's organization provided transportation and money laundering services for other major narcotics traffickers who added their loads to Bernal-Madrigal's multi-thousand kilogram cocaine shipments.

This investigation was developed primarily through the use of Colombian judicially-authorized electronic surveillance in Bogota, Colombia in March 1999, a series of similarly lawfully authorized wiretaps of various telephones in Medellin and Cali (sometimes as many as 66 simultaneously running wiretaps), and physical surveillance. This evidence, developed by the Colombian National Police and the Colombian Fiscal (prosecutor's office), was turned over to the United States pursuant to a judicial authorization request. On October 13, 1999, Bernal-Madrigal and 29 of his confederates, including notorious drug kingpin Fabio Ochoa, were arrested in Colombia, and one other defendant was arrested in Mexico.

EXTRADITIONS

LIST OF COLOMBIAN NATIONALS
EXTRADITED FROM COLOMBIA TO THE U.S.
Status as of 2/20/01

Colombian nationals extradited to the US 1

5. Jaime Lara- Southern District of New York - 11/99

6. Orlando Garcia Cleves - District of New Jersey - 7/00

7. Luis Alberto Orlandez Gamboa, a/k/a "Caracol" - Southern District of New York -8/00

8. Jorge Eliecer Asprilla Perea - Southern District of New York - 10/00 (assurances- full)2

9. Alex Restrepo - Southern District of New York - 10/00 (assurances - full)

10. Milton Perlaza Ortiz - Southern District of New York - 10/00 (assurances - full)

11. Juan Arturo Montoya Diaz, Northern District of Georgia - 11/00 (assurances - full)

12. Ivonne Maria Escaf de Saldarriaga, Southern District of Florida - 11/00 (assurances - full)

13. Lina Maria Castano Bedoya - Eastern District of New York - 11/00 (assurances - full) (dual US/Colombian national)


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¹ This chart had previously included the extradition in 9/00 of Nelson Baez. Although significant due to his membership in the Restrepo organization, the inclusion of Baez' extradition in this chart was erroneous since he is an Ecuadorian national.
² The notation "assurances - full" indicates that the United States has provided a diplomatic note to the Colombian government containing an assurance that US prosecutors will not seek the death penalty, nor will they seek a life sentence (and if a life sentence is nevertheless given, the prosecutor will seek a downward departure to a term of years). The US further assures that the extraditee will not be subjected to forced disappearance, torture, cruel and unusual punishment, degrading or inhumane treatment, exile, or confiscation without due process of law. If the extraditee is not eligible for the death penalty, the assurance so states.

14. Hernando Franco Saavedra - Southern District of Florida - 11/00 (assurances - full)

15. Hector Mario Londono-Vasquez - Southern District of Florida - 12/00 (Operation Millennium) (assurances - full)

16. Dario Echeverry-Monsalve - Southern District of Florida, 12/00 (Operation Millennium) (assurances - full)

17. Carlos Omar Tamayo - Southern District of Florida 1/01 (assurances-full)

18. Horacio De Jesus Moreno-Uribe - Southern District of Florida 2/01 (Operation Millennium) (assurances-full)

Extraditions Upheld by the Colombian Supreme Court Awaiting Executive Resolution:

1. Gustavo Gomez-Maya - Southern District of Florida

2. Hernan Abelardo Gomez-Moreno - Southern District of Florida (Operation Millennium)

Pending before the Colombian Supreme Court:3

1. Alfredo Tascon Aguirre - Southern District of Florida - (Operation Millennium)

2. Santiago Velez Velazquez - Southern District of Florida - (Operation Millennium)

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³ A challenge by the two defendants has been granted by the Colombian Constitutional Court that would prohibit extradition of a Colombian national in cases where there is no apparent foreign nexus and for which the Colombian prosecutors' office has not conducted its own investigation. It is uncertain how this decision will affect ongoing extradition proceedings in the Operation Millennium and other cases.

As of March 16, 2001, this document was also available online at http://usinfo.state.gov/regional/ar/colombia/brief13.htm

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