- The Washington Times - Friday, December 10, 2010

Two drug smuggling bosses aligned with the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, have been found guilty in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., of conspiring to import tons of cocaine into the United States, Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer said Friday. The AUC is a Colombian paramilitary group designated by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization.

Mr. Breuer, who heads the Justice Department’s criminal division, said the guilty verdicts against Christian Fernando Borda and Alvaro Alvaran-Velez were returned Thursday following a seven-week trial and two days of deliberation before U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler.

Borda, 46, and Alvaran-Velez, 56, both Colombian nationals, were extradited from Colombia to the United States in October 2009. They were convicted on charges of conspiring to distribute cocaine with the knowledge and intent it would be imported into the United States.

“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,” Mr. 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.”

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, between February 2005 and March 2007, Borda and Alvaran-Velez were members of a major narcotics trafficking organization based in Colombia that transported multi-ton quantities of cocaine from Colombia to the United States through Mexico.

Prosecutors said Borda, as the leader of the drug trafficking organization, obtained large amounts of cocaine from Colombian paramilitary sources and directed others in their drug trafficking activities. They said Alvaran-Velez, a Borda associate, coordinated and facilitated shipments of cocaine through his Mexico contacts.

One of their shipments of cocaine in 2005, prosecutors said, involved approximately 3,300 pounds of cocaine that was 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 three tons per shipment.

At trial, prosecutors presented numerous recorded conversations from in-person meetings and telephone calls, as well as surveillance photos and videos taken by Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents. Additional evidence revealed shipments of millions of dollars of narcotics-related proceeds, all in U.S. currency, to Borda in Colombia by way of Mexico.

Borda and Alvaran-Velez are scheduled to be sentenced on April 28. They face mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years each and a maximum penalty of life in prison, as well as fines of up to $4 million. Borda has a prior felony narcotics conviction and, as a result, faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

As part of its extradition requests, the United States provided assurances it would not seek a life sentence for the defendants, but instead would ask for prison terms.

Trial Attorneys Paul W. Laymon, Robert J. Raymond and Charles D. Griffith Jr. prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the DEA’s Miami and Houston field divisions with assistance from DEA’s country offices in Colombia and Mexico, and the U.S. Coast Guard. The investigation also involved the Colombian National Police and the Colombian Attorney General’s Office.

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