“Otoniel” was captured on October 23, 2022. / National Police. (Colombian presidential press office via AP)
After the extradition to the United States of alias Otoniel, top leader of the Clan del Golfo, the Colombian authorities have already prioritized the capture of his heirs in the criminal organization that succeeded paramilitarism. Among them is Jobanis de Jesús Ávila Villadiego, alias Chiquito Malo, head of the Central Urabá substructure, one of the most important and powerful of the criminal group, with a presence in several municipalities, including San Pedro de Urabá, in Urabá Antioquia. It was there that Chiquito Malo provided, with his support networks, shelter to Otoniel in the days before his capture, in October 2021.
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At this time, a judicial process is under way that gives details of how this substructure in command of bad boy received for years support from a well-known supermarket chain in that region of Antioquia: Conmax de Urabá SAS, to which 18 locations in this area of the country have already been seized, since, according to the former director of Asset Forfeiture of the Prosecutor’s Office , Ana Catalina Noguera: “Several criminal organizations use the money laundering modality through supermarkets, which at the same time serve them to stock up. It is important not to stigmatize these establishments. In this case we did all the verifications.”
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The statements of the then prosecutor were made known in March 2020. By then, the Prosecutor’s Office had already uncovered her letters in a file similar to that of Conmax, but which ended up being strongly questioned: that of Supercundi. According to the investigation that former prosecutor Néstor Humberto Martínez took advantage of, the brothers Uriel and Luis Alirio Mora Urrea were linked to an investigation for allegedly serving as figureheads for the former FARC guerrilla. However, what the family’s defense denounced is that the witness against him was lying (an issue that is still under investigation) and that none of the accusations against him were true.
The details of the file
In a court in Antioquia, 12 people are on trial who, according to the Prosecutor’s Office, would have collaborated with this network that supported the Clan del Golfo with food and other products and, in addition, laundered their money from illegal actions. Among the accused stands out the name of John Freddy González Carvajal, head of Conmax, and who was charged with the crimes of conspiracy to commit a crime, money laundering and financing of terrorism, which he categorically did not accept. His company was born in 1995 and, according to the company itself, generated 500 jobs, were the engine of development in the region and victims of threats, looting, murders and fires.
The Prosecutor’s Office says that Carvajal González, who has 90% of the shares of Conmax and in turn is the legal representative, laundered money to the Clan del Golfo since approximately 2013. According to the investigators, during that year there began to exist an increase in the income of the supermarket chain, since between that year and 2018 they went from $51,000 million to $109,000 million. That period coincides with the information received by the Prosecutor’s Office that Conmax agreed with the Clan del Golfo to be the suppliers of food and other products for its operation. In addition, the investigating entity says that this increase in money was not obtained by another company in that sector, that of retail supermarket chains.
Another of the findings of the investigation is that, during that period, Conmax did not clearly report its liabilities to the authorities, since its accounting books do not clarify whether the debts acquired were with individuals or other companies. Likewise, the Prosecutor’s Office found that, through its branches, they provided food and other products that the criminal group required. “Additionally, prior agreement with the supermarket chain, they took other instruments that they required for their operation, such as batteries, gasoline, boots, etc., to the structures of this organization,” the documents known to this newspaper indicate.
“It is likely that there is a concealment of the information by Conmax. It is not allowed to establish the veracity of these debts. When receiving money from the criminal group, there is no way to justify the legality of that money, which, although it is to buy food, has an illicit origin. To be able to carry out this type of activity, prior agreement with the legal representative of Conmax, they obtain discounts, which makes it possible for this organization to have an economic “leverage” and in this way they can pay their men and buy supplies to process cocaine”, reads in the file by Natalia Rendón, known for being the prosecutor who investigated the Clan del Golfo during the last decade.
The investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office determined that Conmax supplied more than 4,000 pairs of batteries so that, says the investigation, members of the Clan del Golfo could communicate in this area of the country, between the municipalities of Turbo, San Pedro de Urabá and the south of Cordova. In addition, they identified that the Clan del Golfo structures located in Apartadó, Carepa and Chigorodó were also supplied by Conmax and that administrators and employees play a key role in delivering food and other products. In the particular case of San Pedro de Urabá, it was identified that two administrators coordinated with a man from the armed group named Jorge Luis López, alias Padillawho also did not accept charges.
The file also indicates that another of the substructures of the Clan del Golfo, known by the name of Carlos Vásquez, had Jeremías Ortiz, alias Zarco. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, he coordinated with the Conmax employees in Carepa and Chigorodó so that the Clan del Golfo was permanently supplied with food and was in charge of several trucks taking the food to the areas where it operates in those municipalities. Another of the identified men is alias Chivolowho received several of these goods brought by Zarcoto later take them on the back of a mule to members of the Clan del Golfo staff, including the bad boy.
One of the Consumax supervisors, the extensive investigation indicates, is in charge of acquiring the thousands of batteries that the criminal group needed and the dozens of Pantanal boots used by the armed men of the Clan del Golfo. All these conclusions were reached by the authorities after they became known through a human source, who provided information about a cell of the group led by Othniel, until last October, dedicated to drug trafficking. Subsequently, the calls of its members were intercepted and little by little it became known how Conmax would have collaborated with the criminal organization responsible for massacres, murders of social leaders, displacements, sexual abuse of minors, among other crimes.
What does Conmax say?
247 News Bulletin contacted the lawyer Juan David Taborda Rave, who represents Carvajal González, majority shareholder of Conmax, in the criminal proceedings. The criminal lawyer pointed out that, since the trial against his client began a couple of months ago, he “does not find it prudent to issue any legal strategy opinion on the case in the media.” The one who did speak out publicly, in March 2020 when the process began, was González Carvajal’s daughter, Lizeth Vanessa González, who is now in charge of the family businesses.
“Those who know the process of John Fredy González Carvajal know that he grew up in a humble and hard-working family, his parents and siblings have worked tirelessly from a very young age with the aim of providing the family with quality of life. I must emphasize that this is a long and painful process, so we ask for prudence, empathy and solidarity. We share their pain and impotence, but we find ourselves with our heads held high, we faithfully believe in their integrity, they are innocent until proven otherwise, and it is precisely the duty of the Prosecutor’s Office to distort the presumption of innocence they enjoy until the end of the trial. criminal proceedings”, Carvajal’s daughter said at that time, when six members of Conmax were captured, including her father.
And he added: “My father believed in the region when few companies were interested in investing in the area, due to the violence, he supports social and cultural activities, offers employment to people with reduced capacities and day by day denatures the stigma of which we are victims. for growing up in an area abandoned by state entities. Despite the adversities, it has not faltered, it has overcome fires, thefts, looting, threats and even homicides, always keeping in mind that this chain generates around 500 jobs, in that understanding, giving up has never been an option.
At the moment the trial is advancing, and it exposes several interceptions made by the Prosecutor’s Office to several of the defendants and that would account for that link between Conmax and the men of Othniel Y bad boy. In the latter, during the last two weeks, the authorities have taken away three of his trusted men. Among them aliases Perea, Hugo Y Tone. The latter is a drug trafficker and the second of bad boy, which would also have business with hotels in Urabá. Despite the blows against the heir to Othnielthe most recent armed strike called by the criminal group shows that the power of the Clan del Golfo in Urabá is still in force.