Escobar son accused in Medellin cartel crimes

AP News
Posted: Nov 18, 2009 2:10 PM

Colombia's police director says the son of notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar was directly involved in cartel business, even killings, rejecting the denials of a man whose reappearance is creating a sensation in Colombia 16 years after his father's death.

The accusations that Gen. Oscar Naranjo made in an interview with The Associated Press Tuesday were bolstered by the assertions of a former cartel lieutenant, who says the younger Escobar accompanied his father on a police captain's killing and took drug money.

The former Juan Pablo Escobar, 32, is using the newly released film "Sins of My Father" to apologize to the sons of two politicians the arch criminal ordered assassinated during nearly a decade of terrorizing Colombia.

The son denied any involvement in his father's criminal affairs in a Nov. 5 interview with The Associated Press, and also said he did not inherit his father's multibillion-dollar fortune.

Naranjo, however, said the drug lord turned over command of his hired killers and trafficking enterprise to his teenage son in the last months of his life as a police dragnet tightened.

"When he began to lose command and control, his son became the obligatory point of contact for those assassins and that criminal structure, and the nod of Pablo's son was enough to do things _ and they were done," he told the AP. "Of that, the police can attest."

The job included giving hit men orders to kill, Naranjo said, although he did not specify any particular killings.

Escobar's only son changed his name to Sebastian Marroquin for his protection before authorities spirited him out of Colombia with his mother and younger sister in 1994. Nearly a year earlier in December 1993, police tracked down and killed the father when the boy was 16.

Naranjo also accused Marroquin of trying unsuccessfully to set up a money laundering operation in Chile before settling in Argentina, where he says he is a self-supporting architect. He and his mother were charged with money-laundering in Argentina in 1999, and later cleared.

"I recently put in motion a request to Argentine authorities to tell me what's going on with the property and finances of this guy," Naranjo told the AP.

Separately, a former cartel lieutenant told the AP that Marroquin had accompanied his father in the 1992 killing in Medellin of police Capt. Fernando Hoyos.

Marroquin carried an Austrian AUG assault rifle during the raid, in which Escobar first bombed the officer's home then shot Hoyos dead when he emerged, Jhon Jairo Velasquez said in a telephone interview from Combita prison, where he is serving a 30-year prison sentence for crimes including murder and terrorism.

Velasquez also said Marroquin personally received millions of dollars that Escobar took from two traffickers _ Fernando Galeano and Gerardo Moncada _ he had killed in 1993 inside the Catedral prison that the state built to his specifications for an "incarceration" from which he later fled.

Repeated attempts to reach Marroquin for comment on the accusations were unsuccessful. The documentary's director, Nicolas Entel, told the AP when reached on Tuesday that Marroquin was considering issuing a statement.

Marroquin had denied Velasquez's accusations in Bogota's El Tiempo newspaper on Sunday, where they were first published.

"All of that is false. They are lies," the newspaper quoted Marroquin as saying.

Acting Chief Prosecutor Guillermo Mendoza told the AP on Wednesday Marroquin faces no criminal charges in Colombia and there are no open investigations into his activities.

Colombians have been fixated by Marroquin's emergence from a low-profile life in Argentina to ask forgiveness and seek what he called reconciliation.

Many are nervous about any return to public view of Medellin cartel figures, says Rodrigo Lara, the son of a politician who was assassinated on Escobar's orders. Marroquin apologized to him last year in a secret visit to Colombia shown in the documentary.

Nervousness extends far beyond fear of a criminal resurgence, he said, noting that Colombians who benefited financially or politically from association with the cartel don't want that known.

"The mere possibility that these people (Escobar's family) could appear on the scene, and, on top of that, be pardoned by their victims, has a lot of people, very important people in this country, quivering in fear," he told the AP.

From atop the world's leading cocaine cartel in the 1980s, Escobar fought extradition to the United States with a reign of terror. He and his allies ordered the killings of hundreds who opposed them _ politicians, judges and journalists.

Escobar at one point even offered a bounty of more than $4,000 for any police officer killed in Medellin, his hometown. More than a hundred were killed.

One of Colombia's leading columnists and chroniclers of its drug wars, Maria Jimena Duzan, met with Marroquin in Buenos Aires in 2006 and believes, like Lara, that he's anguished by his father's bloody legacy and is trying to cleanse his soul.

She thinks he was sincere in seeking the forgiveness of the three sons of Luis Carlos Galan, the presidential candidate the drug lord had killed in 1989, and of Lara, whose justice minister father was assassinated in 1984.

But she said she agreed with Colombia's police that Marroquin was involved in his father's criminal enterprise and "hasn't told us the whole truth."