Barranquilla: A judicial document links the Char family with drug trafficking in Colombia | International

A confidential file from the 1990s, lost among the 16 volumes of police investigations, hides a dark secret of one of the most powerful family sagas in Colombia. The judicial document that is now coming to light links the Char brothers to marijuana and cocaine trafficking in Barranquilla, the city in which they still exercise total control over political and business life. One of its members, Álex Char, is a pre-candidate for the presidency of Colombia and in some polls he came second in voting intentions, only behind Gustavo Petro.

According to the documentation brought to light by La Liga contra el Silencio, a media alliance that promotes investigative journalism, the Chars worked with the Costa cartel, a criminal organization then led by Alberto Orlande Gamboa, alias The snail. Fuad Char (Álex’s father) and several of his brothers and nephews not only moved the drug, but also laundered assets and acted as figureheads for the members of the cartel. That file explains that El Caracol was a feared criminal, known throughout the world, but that others “more discreet” and “white collar” were hiding behind him. They were the chars.

The documents in which these revelations appear belong to a judicial file opened by the anti-narcotics unit against El Caracol. His responsibility in the kidnapping and murder of another capo and his escort was being investigated. At the crossroads of information and data between the prosecution and other agencies is this 28-page report signed by the CTI, the judicial police. It includes photographs, certificates, lists of collaborators, hired assassins, prosecutors, judges, former paid ministers, and the names of other respected families in the city. A true map of drug trafficking in the Atlantic.

This is not the first scandal in which Álex Char has been involved lately. The candidate who always appears wearing a baseball cap was accused by former congresswoman Aida Merlano of being an accomplice in the massive vote-buying plot for which she was imprisoned. Days before it was known, through another judicial revelation, that Merlano and Char were lovers. Char, who doesn’t usually give interviews or attend debates, then responded on social media. He confirmed the infidelity to his wife, but insisted that he did not support Merlano in any way. His strategy was to focus on the scandal as a personal matter and not on the former senator’s complaints, which include vote-buying, escape, attempted murder and even rape.

Unlike the Medellin or Cali cartels, the Costa cartel did not have a clear hierarchical organization. The file says that there were a series of drug traffickers who occasionally reached alliances and shared shipments, but that none of them could be considered more prominent than another. Orlande Gamboa, however, was something of a godfather. “If someone wanted to get drugs out of the Coast, you had to ask them because they controlled the ports,” she maintains. In 2000 he was extradited to the United States, where he is serving a 40-year sentence for drug trafficking.

The document is signed by the then head of the judicial police in Barranquilla, Álvaro Vivas. He maintains that the boom in drug trafficking on the coast is evident in the buildings that have begun to rise from nothing and the millionaire investments magically made in industry and local commerce. About the Char he writes: “Mentioning the Char family (written Chard) (…) seems irreverent, irresponsible”, but, even so, he raises doubts about the origins of their enrichment and recommends evaluating and analyzing the data, as well as consulting with Interpol the records that may exist in other countries.

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There is added a kind of organization chart of the traffickers in the area. In the dome, Orlande Gamboa. Below, along with 72 other names, the Char. The League Against Silence has verified that many of those who appear there are in prison or murdered. Some more were acquitted. And others, like the Char, were never investigated.

There is more between the papers. Ultimately, it is the story of a family. The Char, at the end of the sixties, introduced expired medicines into the country that they repackaged, eliminating the expiration date. But how they really made money was bringing from the United States dollars with which marijuana traffickers laundered their profits. In the eighties, according to this story, they began to manufacture hallucinogenic pills that they exported to the United States and Central America. His partners sold them in Colombia.

A lawyer who spoke to the investigators on condition of anonymity assures that these substances were erased from the history of the city of Barranquilla and from the records of the Judicial Police: “It did a lot of damage because it ended a generation of young people. And with minors. The businessmen behind this cartel stopped bringing the pills from Europe because they realized that it was easier to produce them in Barranquilla. In the face of this, there was never truth, justice, or reparation,” he said.

Links with Samuel Alarcón, a narco murdered in the Modelo prison in Bogotá in January 1995, are also attributed to the Chars; logistical and political support to the Cartel de la Costa, and “participation” in the murders of José de la Espriella (a lawyer and journalist known as ‘Chepe’) and drug trafficker ‘Kiko’ Valdeblánquez, among others. All that kept a document hidden in a forgotten file, which has now been dusted off.

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