Categorized | UK

Britain’s Secret Drug-Running Operations in Colombia

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By T.J. Coles 

Since the 1980s, when Britain’s Special Air Service (SAS) and Special Boat Service started operating in Colombia, special forces on all sides have been killing rival drug gangs and even counter-narcotics police units. This amounts to a proxy drug-smuggling network, which Britain has aided for decades.

Cocaine is a huge industry, worth some $60 billion per annum. Coke is mainly a middle-class drug, used by politicians, models, film stars, and people in music, media, and other industries. More importantly, coke and other drug monies are untraceable and can be used for military black ops. A great deal is known about the US Central Intelligence Agency’s s role in drug running. Alfred McCoy’s The Politics of Heroin , Gary Webb’s Dark Alliance, and Douglas Valentine’s The Strength of the Wolf are vital exposés. Much less is known about MI6’s role.

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According to Grace Livingstone, throughout the 1980s, drug barons, paramilitaries, and members of the Colombia government began a heavy drug-money laundering campaign via land purchases, acquiring 10% of the country.

The connections between drugs and politics are such that the Medellin and Cali cocaine cartels funded President Ernesto Samper’s 1998 election campaign. Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel attempted to get farmers to cultivate coca, which, initially, the FARC opposed. FARC is the Marxist-turned-terrorist resistance group which calls for more equal land reform. According to Livingstone, Escobar’s money laundering greatly aided the poor (undercutting FARC’s campaign advantage) to the extent that churches praised his urban regeneration initiatives.

Initially, Britain backed Escobar, until, it would seem, his poverty relief efforts got out of hand and ended up undermining big business. The Ford-sponsored Women’s Commission commented on the “narcotrade-financed paramilitary forces,” adding that they “often [work] with the support or acquiescence of [UK trained- and armed] Colombian police and military forces.”

The standard propaganda is that SAS assassins were sent by Prime Minister Thatcher in 1989 at the behest of President Barco, “to fight the drug cartels.” In the real world, they were sent to fight the FARC cartels. By 1985, the wealthy Asociación Campesina de Agricultores y Ganaderos del Magdalena Medio (ACDEGAM) “had powerful new members: drug traffickers who bought land in the Middle Magdalena,” Human Rights Watch reported, adding that, “In 1987 and 1988, the [ACDEGAM] even sponsored training centers with foreign instructors from Israel and Great Britain.”

A 1990 inquiry led by Louis Blom-Cooper QC revealed that “British mercenaries had been training the [Medellin] cartel’s death squads,” and that successive British governments “turned a blind eye to the sale of weapons to the Medellin cartel.” The Financial Times reported that in 1988, ex-SAS mercenaries worked with the former Israeli Colonel Yair Gal Klein’s Spearhead company to arm and train the Medellin cartel, and, again, “the British government ha[d] turned a blind eye.”

Mercenary firms cannot operate without the approval of the Foreign Office.

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Britain’s active support for the drugs trade continues.

“In May 2006 troops of a High Mountain Battalion (whose members receive UK military assistance) were ordered by their commanding officer to ambush and kill ten counter-narcotics police officers near the town of Jamundi in the region of Valle del Cauca,” according to a detailed account by the Justice for Colombia group. “Small teams of SAS specialists rotate routinely through Bogota, and work with General Serrano’s main unit, La Jungla,” reports David Smith. The Independent notes that “Colombian presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galán, a fierce opponent of the drug trade, was assassinated, some Colombian government sources say, by British mercenaries.”

Former SAS mercenary David Tomkins was “due to appear before US District Judge Adalberto Jordan” for his alleged role in the attempted murder of Escobar, whom, as noted, appeared to have fallen out of favour with Britain and America after diverting coke money to the poor. “US officials [say Tomkins] will avoid trial and have time off his sentence,” indicating that he is still a secret ally. Tomkins “planned an attack on the drug lord’s stronghold at the Hacienda Napoles, east of Medellin,” the paper reported, but the “helicopter flew into a mountainside, killing the pilot. Tomkins and his associate Peter McAleese, a former SAS officer, were forced to walk three days to safety through the Colombian jungle.”

More recently, the International Crisis Group noted that Colombian police “seized [a] USB memory stick of a key alleged associate of Daniel Barrera (alias “Loco Barrera”), a drug lord …, that reportedly contained a detailed monthly payroll of over $1.5 million for 890 politicians, military and justice officers and informants,” indicating the levels of politico-drug interconnections throughout the country. In 2003, the late Pedro Juan Moreno, Chief of Staff in Antioquia, was accused of drug-running by US Customs, which seized shipments of potassium permanganate.

The London Progressive Journal writes: “[that] the British government is unconcerned as to who it is working with was [demonstrated] in December 2007,” when then-Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells “was photographed with soldiers of the High Mountain Battalions.” The paper adds that “Howells also posed for the camera alongside General Mario Montoya; a man [who] has a 30 year history of involvement with right wing paramilitaries, death squads and drug traffickers.”

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Colombia’s coke is mainly channelled to Europe via the Caribbean, and to the US through Mexico. In July 2012, a US Congress report into HSBC’s involvement in drug laundering found that “the Mexican affiliate of HSBC transported $7 billion in physical US dollars to HSBUS from 2007 to 2008, outstripping other Mexican banks, even one twice its size, raising red flags that the volume of dollars included proceeds from illegal drug sales in US.” Forbes reports that “HSBC actively circumvented rules designed to “block transactions involving terrorists, drug lords, and rogue regimes”—the latter referring to Iran and Syria.

The Daily Mail reports: “Concerns over the bank’s links to Mexican drug dealers included £1.3 billion stashed in accounts in the Cayman Islands. One HSBC compliance officer admitted the accounts were misused by ‘organised crime’.” The Daily Mail also notes that David Cameron’s Trade Minister, Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, “chaired HSBC during the period covered by the allegations.” Labour MP John Mann said of Lord Green: “Someone whose bank has been assisting murdering drug cartels and corrupt regimes across the world should not be in charge of a government portfolio.”

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