A manhunt for the Chief Executive Officer of CI Goldex, once the Colombia’s second-largest gold exporter, ended this week after police caught John Hernandez on a public bus Tuesday night.
According to Colombia’s Attorney General’s office, the company and its top executives are at the centre of a $970 million money-laundering scheme involving cocaine traffickers, Bloomberg reported.
For years, prosecutors followed the traces left by Hernandez, in an attempt to determine his involvement in the money laundering case. They finally gathered enough evidence to charge him last week, and authorities ordered his arrest along with two dozen other people.
In the past, Goldex had acknowledged that most its gold was mined in the northeast of the Antioquia department, where illegal armed groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Urabeños are active in mining activities.
Mixing it up
Prosecutors believe the company used to add illegally mined gold to legally extracted minerals and thus helped finance the illegal businesses of rebels and neo-paramilitaries.
An anonymous source within the Colombian police told local paper El Tiempo (in Spanish) last year that Goldex was not the only gold exporter investigated for illegal activities.
“We are investigating six companies that are suspicious and could be linked to crimes like money laundering and illicit enrichment,” the source told the newspaper.
Two years ago local authorities said than profits from illegal gold mining were already five times greater than returns from cocaine for rebels groups operating in the country.
Colombia, Latin America’s third-largest economy, has over the past decade been working hard to leave behind the years of trafficking-fuelled violence, which tainted its name abroad.