By Edinson Bolaños and Enrique Gamboa, REVISTA RAYA, June 6, 2023[1]


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The former Vice President of Colombia is being investigated in Italy, along with Italy’s former Prime Minister, Massimo D’Alema for allegedly conspiring, through Édgar Ignacio Fierro Flóres, alias “Don Antonio” for the purchase of submarines and airplanes, along with a bribe of 80 million euros. “Don Antonio” was one of the bloodiest bosses for “Jorge 40” in Atlántico Department. The audios reveal both his voice and his strategy.

Édgar Ignacio Fierro Flóres, alias “Don Antonio” is the name of the Colombian who spoke with the Prime Minister of Italy, Massimo D’Alema at the end of 2021 with the purpose of finalizing a multimillion dollar deal that consisted in the purchase, by Colombia, of four corvettes and two Trachinus submarines produced by the Italian state-owned business, Fincantieri, and 24 Leonardo M346 airplanes, also the property of the Italian government. According to Italian judicial authorities, then-Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez was supposed to have received some 40 million euros out of the 80 that were agreed on by the parties to seal a governmental business transaction which has reached 4,000 million euros.

The former paramilitary boss presented himself as a retired Army captain, the post he had held until he retired from the service in August 2002, because while he was still actively serving in the government forces, he was collaborating with the Jorge 40 paramilitaries. Later, when he left the Army, he changed his bracelet and put on ski masks to unleash his criminal fury against the Colombian civilians living in Caribe.

He’s the one, alias “Don Antonio”, who in several audios revealed by the Italian media, confirmed to D’Alema that he didn’t have to worry about the presidential elections that were coming up in Colombia in 2022. “The subject of politics isn’t that important, because of what I’ve told you already. The people on our team are already holding the important posts that will help decide on a contract, a purchase.”  Alias “Don Antonio” even assured him that a Colombian general was on the team and could help accelerate the purchasing process.

Corrupt business transactions, which were customary in the higher spheres of power in Colombia, were going to have the perfume of legality through the law firms. That explains the way that Prime Minister D’Alema responded to alias “Don Antonio”. “It’s very important that the Colombian party be represented by a law firm. For two reasons: in the first place, the contract between Robert Allen (a Miami attorney), and the Colombian side will be subject to control by the United States authorities. United States law protects legal activity. The relationship between the lawyer and the client is confidential. But if the contract is a commercial contract, it’s not confidential ( . . . ) It’s very important that this contract be made with a Colombian entity that will be transparent and acceptable to United States authorities.”

The calls that were intercepted by Italian authorities permitted us to hear that the transaction, planned between the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 were proceeding seriously. Proof of that are alias “Don Antonio’s” other companions, the corvette’s captain, Francisco Joya Prieto, who had graduated from the Superior War College with a specialty in Security and National Defense, and specifically with a theory that he proposed “a plan to replace the obsolescence of the Colombian Navy’s equipment.” The other companion was Germán Monroy Ramírez, a lawyer from Sergio Arboleda University who, just like Prieto, presented himself as a delegate from the Commission of the Colombian Senate. Alias “Don Antonio”, for his part, presented himself as the head of a work group for increasing opportunity in Colombia.

(Justice and Peace Unit documents on “Alias Don Antonio” are omitted.)

This week President Gustavo Petro released a statement on this matter, requesting an investigation by Colombia’s Attorney General, Francisco Barbosa. “For the purchase of naval military equipment, they were going to distribute 80 million euros in bribes that were going to be distributed between an Italian company and high officials of the previous administration. The investigation in Italy is going forward, and I request that the Attorney General undertake an investigation in Colombia.” Former Vice-President Ramírez immediately answered, “As Vice President and former Foreign Minister in the previous administration, I had no dealings with acquisition of military equipment.”

Who is alias “Don Antonio”?

Édgar Ignacio Fierro Flóres, accused of being the partner of Marta Lucía Ramírez in the business of buying weapons between Colombia and Italy, is a former captain in the Colombian Army who had studied military science and weaponry at the Colombian Army War College, the institution where he achieved the rank of captain. He was also connected to Colombia’s Navy, where he obtained the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.

In his Armed Forces career, alias “Don Antonio” was attached to the Military Cadets School in Bogotá, to the “Nueva Granada” Air Defense Artillery Battalion in Barrancabermeja, to the Military Police Battalion #4 in Medellín, to the Juan del Corral Battalion in RíoNegro (Antioquia), and later to the Counterguerrilla Battalion #27, based in Aguachica (Cesar). He ended his military career on August 4, 2002, when he was part of Counterguerrilla Battalion #2, called “Los Guajiros” in Valledupar (Cesar).

(Justice and Peace documents are omitted.)

Before leaving the Army because of his connection with the paramilitaries, he was decorated with the “José María Córdoba” medal, whose objective is to extol members of the Army whose acts of bravery have been outstanding, their conduct impeccable, and whose military virtues are eminent service and comradeship.

In March 2003, Captain Fierro was converted into alias “Don Antonio” by finally bonding his connection to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), specifically the Northern Bloc of “Jorge 40”. There during his first two months, he worked as a weapons inspector for the Martyrs Front that centered its operations in Cesar Department. However, his role in the paramilitaries changed in the first days of June 2003 when he was promoted to the command of the José Pablo Díaz Front, serving there until his demobilization in March of 2006.

(More Peace and Justice documents omitted.)

As one of the men closest to “Jorge 40”, “Don Antonio’s” first mission was to devise and create ten committees to be called Metropolitan, Center, Northeast, Dique and Cordialidad, Magdalena, Road to the Sea, Finance, Gasoline, Politics, and Intelligence. Every one would obey a commander, who, at the same time, would be under the orders of “Don Antonio”, meaning Édgar Ignacio Fierro Flóres. Those committees were created to cover most of the rural areas in the departments of Atlántico and Magdalena with armed men and, by this method, divide up the Front into areas of influence.

In a decision by the Supreme Court of Justice, issued last March 29, alias “Don Antonio” was sentenced to 40 years in prison, along with 15 of his subordinates in the José Pablo Díaz Front. According to the court document, that paramilitary organization in the beginning had been financed by the bosses of the Northern Bloc, Carlos Castaño Gil and Salvatore Mancuso. Later on, the Front consolidated its financing through an illegal policy based on levying a percentage on public contracts, fees from ranchers and farmers based on the number of head of cattle or the size of the land they owned, and control by imposing a tax on drug trafficking operations that went on in the Front’s region of influence.

“Don Antonio” was captured on March 11, 2006, in the Villas Canarias condominium, located in Santa Marta (Magdalena), three days after he had demobilized. During the process of his capture, the authorities seized several computers which contained all of the evidence of the frauds the paramilitary front had used to steal part of the funding for public contracts in the departments of Atlántico, Magdalena, and Bolívar, from agencies like Mayor’s Offices, Governor’s Offices, hospitals, and companies providing health services (IPS, EPS,ESE); they did it in the same way with the slaughterhouses and public service companies from which they demanded percentages exceeding the value of the contracts. In its decision, the Supreme Court made it clear, for example, that this paramilitary front had absolutely infiltrated the financing of the Maternity and Children’s Hospital in Soledad (Átlantico).

(Court documents omitted.)

In spite of the sentence from the highest court, alias “Don Antonio” is still walking free. Revista RAYA consulted the system of the Penitentiary and Prison Institute (Inpec) and was able to verify that fact. Meanwhile, he continues to do his thing, like the old corrupt transactions that he had honed with the AUC, but at a presidential level. That was established this week after Italian authorities issued a search warrant for the residence of former Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema and his partners. The former Vice President of Colombia, Marta Lucia Ramírez, was also mentioned in the order, as the one to receive 40 of the 80 million euros of commission. Also mentioned was the Army captain, paramilitary, and finally, intermediary of the Iván Duque administration whose deal that was trying to buy a naval and aerial fleet and was never finalized, but that, according to Defense Minister at the time, Diego Molano, they did intend to buy during the Duque administration.

Alias “Don Antonio’s” confessions, which were set forth in the court’s decision, are evidence of the degrees of corruption engaged in by the paramilitaries. He received a remuneration of 2 million pesos (roughly USD $2,000 at the exchange rates in effect at the time) every month, plus five percent (5%) from the collaborators of the “José Pablo Díaz” Front for serving as their military commander. Those funds were collected by Wilmer Alberto Samper, alias “Pupi”. For all of this, “Don Antonio” admitted to 170 charges for the crimes of homicide, “false positives”, torture, and kidnapping. With all of this, he begged for pardon from the victims, but they rejected him, considering him insincere, with the level of blood that he shed in northern Colombia. But he himself has another investigation dormant in the Attorney General’s Office for the murder of the rancher Fernando Cepeda Vargas, killed in Barranquilla on August 22,2003.

For now, neither the media nor the legal system have had anything to say about the name of Édgar Ignacio Fierro Flóres, the brains of an irregular operation that attempted to make millions for a couple of families, using the Covid19 pandemic as a distraction while they bought war materials that could provide Colombia with new weapons to face a possible international conflict.

(Court documents omitted.)

[1] Note that this article was published approximately six months ago.

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