Things That Matter

Legendary Cartel Leader ‘Memo Fantasma’ Is Captured In Colombia After Years In Hiding

Colombian authorities have made a major arrest in their fight against the nation’s drug cartels. An alleged drug cartel boss and paramilitary leader, known as “Memo Fantasma” (Will, the ghost), was captured in Colombia after a career that spanned more than three decades.

Guillermo León Acevedo Giraldo was an elusive figure who at the height of his power was a leader of a paramilitary group and one of the country’s biggest cocaine smugglers, one who got his start in Pablo Escobar’s Medellin Cartel.

Colombia makes major arrest of drug cartel leader with decades long career.

Guillermo León Acevedo Giraldo (also known as “Memo Fantasma” was captured in in the country’s capital, Bogotá, along with three other alleged drug dealers – two of whom are related to Acevedo. The police also said Acevedo, who was apprehended in Bogotá, will face charges of money laundering, criminal conspiracy and illicit enrichment. Acevedo’s mother and grandmother were also charged during the same hearing for money laundering and illicit enrichment.

“The significance for Colombia is that an invisible drug trafficker and paramilitary chieftain, after a criminal career of more than three decades, has finally been arrested and hopefully will be answering for his crimes,” said Jeremy McDermott, leader of the investigation by InSightCrime that exposed Acevedo.

Acevedo had long evaded authorities and escaped prosecution by living behind a façade of legitimate business dealings.

Memo Fantasma allegedly first got started in the drug world in 1990, on the bottom rung of Pablo Escobar’s Medellín Cartel. He was responsible for receiving shipments of cocaine and distribtuing them among local dealers.

Then in the late 1990s, he joined the Central Bolívar Bloque, one of several parts of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia – AUC), then the world’s largest paramilitary army and cocaine trafficking group.

He went on to build a shadow life, hiding behind legitimate businesses. In fact, he built an aviation, cattle ranching and real estate business with holdings in Europe and South America, including in Bogotá where he sold lots to the family real estate business Colombia’s current vice president.

But investigators started to catch up to him.

Acevedo’s shadow life first came to light following an article in El Espectador in 2015. But it was a report by InSight Crime, published in March 2020, that tracked him down living in Spain. Despite the investigation that singled him out, Acevedo continued to slip through the cracks. But then the Attorney General’s Office reopened an investigation into him has allegedly found enough evidence to bring these very serious charges against the former kingpin.

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