Colombian National Police dismantle Semi-Submersible Boat-Building Crew

By Dialogo
September 17, 2014

Colombian National Police have broken up a gang that allegedly built ocean-going semi-submersible drug smuggling boats for the Clan de los Úsuga criminal organization. The arrests should have a significant impact on the gang’s ability to traffic cocaine at sea, PNC officials said.
Officers of the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DIJIN) captured four members of the group, including the alleged ringleader, Alexander Giraldo Santa, who is also known as “The Engineer.”
Police captured The Engineer in Cali. He's alleged to be a major builder of semi-submersible boats which are used by drug trafficking organizations. The Engineer also owns a chain of car wash businesses in Cali and Bogota which he allegedly used to launder drug money, according to the Colombian National Police (PNC).
During simultaneous operations in Buenaventura, Bogotá and Necoclí (Antioquia) police also captured three other alleged key members of the gang. The police announced the arrests July 31. Police identified the other three suspects as:

Ernesto Obregon Diego Caicedo, who is also known as “Pampiro.” He allegedly assisted The Engineer in designing the semi-submersible boats, according to a PNC press release.
Enriquez Jorge Alberto Mantilla, who is also known as “Panelita.” He is a diesel engine specialist.
Manuel Antonio Barrera, who is also known as “Longano.” He was in charge of logistics for the gang.

Authorities investigating the gang’s assets

The Colombian National Police and Attorney General’s office are investigating whether the boat building ring’s assets are subject to forfeiture. Meanwhile, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida has issued arrest warrants for the four men to be extradited to the U.S. to face drug smuggling charges.
Police said the group built semi-submersible boats for the Clan de los Úsuga, a drug trafficking organization. The gang used wood and fiberglass to build the semi-submersible boats. The boats were powered by diesel engines. Each boat was capable of carrying four crew members and more than seven tons of cocaine. The gang allegedly built the semi-submersibles in secret locations in the forests of the department of Antioquia.
Some people refer to these boats as “narco-submarines.” But unlike submarines, semi-submersible boats cannot travel completely underwater. The boats’ decks, superstructures and engine exhaust pipes are visible above the water when the boats are underway.
Semi-submersibles generally range from 40 to 80 feet in length and can travel at a speed of up to 13 knots for up to 2,500 nautical miles without having to refuel. Drug trafficking groups have used semi-submersible boats since the early 1990s.
When the gang finished building a boat, drug traffickers filled the vessel with cocaine and launched it from the Gulf of Uraba. Most of the boat crew members were Hondurans, who transported the drugs to transshipment points in the Caribbean.
During its investigation of the boat-building group, Colombian National Police intelligence sources learned of the departures of three of the semi-submersibles during the past two years.

International cooperation crucial

Through international cooperation, security forces captured the three semi-submersible boats and seized 22 tons of cocaine. Such international cooperation is vital in the battle against sophisticated, international drug trafficking organizations, according to Rubén Sánchez, a security analyst at the University of Rosario in Colombia.
“International cooperation is an important component in investigations against drug trafficking by organized crime groups. This cooperation allows authorities to dismantle important parts of drug trafficking organizations. Authorities are exchanging information on drug trafficking methods. Drug traffickers are very imaginative and the security forces are working to stay one step ahead of them.”
“This criminal group has other methods to transport drugs – speedboats and planes. Drug trafficking organizations are always seeking new methods to transport drugs.”

Julieta Pelcastre contributed to this story.

I liked the article because in Brazil nothing is reported about drug traffickers using submersibles.