Photo: Victor Carranza (Mauricio Vélez)
Colombian “emerald czar” Victor Carranza, a mining tycoon who was investigated for alleged ties to right-wing militias and other crimes, died on Thursday, officials at the Fundacion Santa Fe de Bogota hospital told Efe. He was 78.
Carranza was hospitalized two weeks ago suffering from cancer of the prostate and lungs.
In recent years, prosecutors had investigated allegations by demobilized former members of the far-right AUC paramilitary federation who accused him of founding and bankrolling militia groups, ordering massacres and maintaining links to drug traffickers.
A U.S. State Department document disseminated last December identified Carranza as a paramilitary leader with the alias “Clodomiro Agamez” and accused him of the 1997 massacre of 12 people in the southern province of Guaviare.
The Colombian army had prior knowledge of the attack and aided and abetted it, according to the diplomatic cable.
Ex-militia members made the paramilitary allegations against Carranza during statements to prosecutors in August 2010.
According to those accounts, Carranza formed a group known as Los Carranceros that allied itself with the AUC to carry out activities in those regions.
Founded in the mid-1980s to battle leftist rebels, the AUC degenerated into a loose alliance of death squads involved in drug trafficking, extortion and other criminal activities.
The militia federation ostensibly demobilized in 2006 as part of a peace process with the government of Colombian former President Alvaro Uribe.
Carranza also was under investigation for the disappearance two decades ago of one of his main competitors in the so-called “green war” for control of emerald-rich areas of the central provinces of Boyaca and Cundinamarca.
The mining mogul consistently denied the accusations and none of the various charges against him stuck.