Colombian drug kingpin, accomplice convicted

By Dialogo
December 20, 2010



The recent trial and convictions of two major narcotraffickers aligned with
the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC) sheds new light on the methods Colombian
drug gangs employ to distribute their product.
Christian Fernando Borda and Alvaro Alvaran-Velez were convicted Dec. 9 in a
U.S. District Court of conspiring to import tons of cocaine into the United States.
They were found guilty following a seven-week trial in Washington D.C.
The jury deliberated two days before finding them guilty.
The investigation that led to the convictions involved close cooperation with
the Colombian National Police and the Colombian Fiscalia.
Borda, 46, and Alvaran-Velez, 56, were extradited from Colombia to the United
States on Oct. 29, 2009. The trial began on Oct. 21, 2010.
"These drug traffickers were responsible for facilitating the delivery
of tons of cocaine from Colombia into the United States, and today 12 U.S. jurors
found them guilty," Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said. "Over
the course of many years, the United States and Colombia have worked together to
bring to justice in both countries the leaders and associates of these dangerous
organizations, and today marks another milestone in that continued effort."
Borda and Alvaran-Velez are scheduled to be sentenced on April 28, 2011. The
charge carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years and a maximum penalty
of life in prison, as well as a fine of up to $4 million.
Borda has a prior felony narcotics conviction and faces a mandatory minimum
sentence of 20 years in prison.
As part of its extradition requests, the United States provided assurances
that it will not seek a life sentence for either man.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, between
February 2005 and March 16, 2007, Borda and Alvaran-Velez were at the top of a major
Colombian drug trafficking organization that transported multi-ton quantities of
cocaine to the United States via Mexico.
Borda was the leader of the organization and obtained large amounts of
cocaine from Colombian paramilitary sources, according to court documents.
Alvaran-Velez coordinated and facilitated shipments of cocaine through his
Mexico contacts, according to court documents.
One of their shipments in 2005 was 1,500 kilograms of cocaine smuggled in
drums of palm oil on a ship departing from the north coast of Colombia. Additional
cocaine shipments in 2005 and 2006 involved quantities of more than 3,000 kilograms
per shipment, according to court documents.
Evidence presented at trial included recorded conversations and photos and
video surveillance.
The evidence also detailed shipments of millions of dollars in U.S. currency
to Borda in Colombia via Monterrey, Mexico and Mexico City.
On the U.S. side, the case was investigated by the DEA’s Miami and Houston
field divisions, with assistance from DEA’s Cartagena and Bogota, Colombia, and
Mexico City and Guadalajara, Mexico, country offices. The U.S. Coast Guard provided
additional investigative assistance.

Previous conviction

Borda and his wife lived in New York in the 1990s and he worked for a time
driving a limousine in New York City. The couple eventually bought a home on Long
Island.
Borda also spent time in Florida, where in 1996 he acquired a driver’s
license.
In 1998, Borda was convicted in the Southern District of Florida of
possession with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine.
He got a 70-month federal sentence for the 1998 conviction and was deported
from the United States to Colombia in April 2003.

Building an empire

According to prosecutors, Borda resumed trafficking cocaine soon after
returning to Colombia.
He started smaller loads, “but by January 2005, he had reestablished himself
and was able to acquire and transport more than 1,500 kilograms of cocaine at a
time,” prosecutors said.
In addition to hiding his cocaine shipments in palm oil, Borda also used
candle wax, generators, bond paper, banana flour and other substances, prosecutors
said.
He used a variety of boats, ships and airplanes to move the shipments to
Mexico, according to court documents.
“Borda was an investor in the loads, and he was responsible for moving the
cocaine within Colombia or Venezuela. If the cocaine was to be transported via a
cargo container vessel, Borda was responsible for finding a seemingly legitimate
company which could hide the cocaine in seemingly legitimate merchandise, and Borda
was also responsible for security of the cocaine at the Colombian port,” prosecutors
said.
“If the cocaine was to be transported by go-fast boat, Borda was ultimately
responsible for finding the go-fasts, hiring the crews, and placing his
representative on the boat,” prosecutors said. “Borda maintained one or more
representatives in Mexico, typically in Mexico City, to handle his drug interests in
Mexico. This representative was often referred to as a “secretary.”
One of Borda’s representatives in Mexico was co-defendant Alvaran-Velez.
“Alvaro Alvaran lived mostly in Mexico. He partnered with Borda to find
Mexican drug traffickers who were able and willing to do business with Borda,”
prosecutors said. “Alvaran would introduce Borda to Mexican traffickers and brokers
in Mexico who could further transport Borda’s cocaine, and then continue to stay in
contact with these traffickers and brokers on Borda’s behalf as the deal was being
negotiated and progressed.”
Alvaran also was an investor in the loads sent by Borda, prosecutors said.
Once the cocaine was distributed by the Mexican partner, Alvaran was
responsible for ensuring that the proceeds were delivered to Borda’s representatives
in Mexico.
Alvaran was held responsible if one of the Mexican traffickers he recommended
was late or did not make payment, prosecutors said.
According to evidence presented at the trial, Borda often traveled to Mexico
and met with Alvaran.

Cold baloney

For men accustomed to the wealth and luxuries afforded by the drug trade, the
conditions in the federal penal system were a bit of a rude awakening.
In a document filed as part of the case, Alvaran-Velez’s attorney described
his living conditions during the trial.
“At the D.C. Jail, Mr. Alvaran is awakened each morning around 3 a.m. by jail
authorities to shower and eat and be ready to be transported to Court along with
other inmates . . . Mr. Alvaran is returned to the Jail sometime after 6 or 7 p.m.
Upon his return to the jail, Mr. Alvaran is fed his dinner, the first meal he
receives since the cold bologna sandwich that he is fed for lunch.”
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