Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s cartel allegedly flew 10,000 kilos of cocaine from Colombia to Mexico on cargo planes – after politicians approved plans for him to build a hangar at Bogotá airport.
The drugs kingpin reportedly used the hangar near the tarmac at El Dorado International Airport from 2006 to 2007, and used it to covertly ship drugs to Mexico which were then distributed to the United States and around the world.
In a report released last month, a former Colombian government official alleges that the country’s former president Álvaro Uribe gave the green light for the hangar – and received expensive gems and $1 million from the Sinaloa Cartel in return.
Richard Maok, who served as a detective with Colombia’s treasury department and is now living in Canada, said he was tipped off about the scheme recently by a former security worker for a Colombian air cargo company.
He claimed that the drugs were dropped off at the airport by paramilitary groups allied to Uribe.
In return, the cartels provided them with dangerous 5.7 mm handguns, widely known as ‘cop killers’ because the bullets can penetrate through a police body armor.
Uribe, who served as Colombia’s president from 2002 to 2010, had links to the cartel because his brother was married to the sister of Alex Cifuentes – a former high-ranking official in El Chapo’s organization, who is now serving time in the United States.
During El Chapo’s trial, Cifuentes charged that former Mexico President Enrique Peña Nieto also received a large sum of money by El Chapo’s cartel.
According to documents turned over by Maok’s informant, who worked at Air Cargo Lines in Colombia, the kingpin’s transnational criminal organization took advantage of the airport warehouse for its international drug route.
The elaborate scheme allegedly depended on support provided by paramilitaries, executives at Air Cargo Lines, officials in Colombia’s air transit agency, Aerocivil, and additional backing from a top agent in the country’s national police department.
The daring scheme was a step up from the days when Pablo Escobar displayed the Medellin Cartel’s power by dispatching cocaine-filled small planes from clandestine dirt-filled airstrips.
The same runways served as the landing spot for planes returning with loads of cash that placed him among the world’s richest men.
Uribe allegedly intervened on behalf of the cartel and ordered the aviation officials to allow a DC-8 four-engine cargo plane, nicknamed ‘Aeropostal’.
The cartel, with the help of a drug trafficking group known as ‘Los Paisas,’ then dispatched the jet to ferry the Type-A drug to Sinaloa.
Colombia exports 80 percent of the world’s cocaine, and to this day still serves the network, which is overseen by its co-founder Ismael ‘El Mayo, Zambada and El Chapo’s three children.
One of El Chapo’s sons, Jesús Guzmán, evaded customs each time he traveled to Colombia.
The informant told Maok that an American ICE agent, who also worked for the DEA, knew of the organization’s deal but did nothing about it.
The massive shipment, in today’s United States street market, would carry an estimated value of $400 million.
The plot was eventually rumbled when Mexican officials busted a fifth Bogotá flight with six and a half metric tons of cocaine – but the shipment later went missing.
El Chapo is now serving a life sentence inside a United States prison
Uribe, who is now serving in the Colombian senate, has been the subject of an on-going investigation.
The case stems from allegations raised by Senator Ivan Cepeda, who claims he has firsthand witness accounts that Uribe was a founding leader of a paramilitary group in his home province during the decades-long civil conflict involving government forces, leftist rebels and right-wing bands.
The ex-chief of state has denied all accusations of ties to the paramilitaries, who are accused of drug trafficking, killing innocents and driving thousands from their homes or lands while fighting rebels.
Perhaps no political leader in Colombia’s recent history has wielded as much influence as Uribe, who still has legions of followers.
He led the ‘no’ campaign that preceded Colombian voters rejecting a peace accord with leftist rebels in 2016, though the government later adopted a slightly revised version. Last year, Uribe’s support lifted a little-known senator, Ivan Duque, to the presidency.
But allegations of ties to drug cartels and paramilitaries have dogged him since the early 1980s, when the civil aviation agency he led was accused of giving air licenses to drug traffickers. Declassified State Department cables from a decade later show U.S. officials were told the up-and-coming politician had ties to cartels.
Uribe has persistently denied those charges and was an unwavering U.S. ally in the war on drugs during his 2002-2010 presidency. He extradited a record number of suspected drug traffickers to the U.S. and aggressively expanded a U.S. program to aerially spray wide swaths of illegal coca crops with chemical agents.