Colombian police have captured Juan Carlos Mesa, one of the most wanted drug traffickers in the country, while he was celebrating his birthday in the municipality of El Peñol, Antioquia.
On Saturday, The Ministry of Defence announced the arrest of Juan Carlos Mesa, commonly know as “Tom”, on twitter, as “one of the strongest blows to drug trafficking in this year.”
#Atención. Se propina uno de los golpes más fuertes al narcotráfico en este año. En #ElPeñol, #Antioquia @PoliciaColombia capturó a alias #Tom, jefe de la ‘Oficina de Envigado’ y por quien EE.UU ofrecía recompensa de 2millones USD. Delinquía desde 1988 y estaba en ‘lista Clinton’ pic.twitter.com/qfzRQg4aHD
— Mindefensa (@mindefensa) December 9, 2017
Considered Medellin’s most powerful drug lord, “Tom” was chief operator of “La Oficina de Envigado”, a narco-paramilitary structure created by Pablo Escobar, and leader of “Los Chatas”, one of Colombia’s main drug trafficking groups, operating all over Antioquia. The group reportedly controls 80% of the criminal gangs in the Aburrá Valley.
Óscar Gómez, Commander of the Metropolitan Police of the Aburrá Valley (where Medellin is situated), even went so far to say that “Tom” was “the current Pablo Escobar”, according to El Colombiano.
In 2014, Juan Carlos Mesa was added to the Clinton List, a list of people and companies that the US believes to be linked to drug trafficking, money laundering and extremism. The US government had also offered a reward of $2 million dollars for his capture.
A delinquent since 1988, Mesa was able to avoid capture for approximately 30 years by maintaining a low profile, and thanks to alleged support from Colombia’s major criminal gang, the Gulf Clan (formally known as Urabeños), responsible for assassinations and drug smuggling up through the Caribbean coast and into Central America, the United States and Europe.
Efforts to find and arrest Mesa were heightened this year after Federico Gutiérres, mayor of Medllin, requested in January that the police work to capture “Tom” so that “people may live quietly” in his city, according to El Pais. In April, President Juan Manuel Santos promised his arrest, declaring a reward of $2 million to whoever provided information that would lead to his capture.
President Santos took to twitter to celebrate the arrest of “Tom”, congratulating the Colombian Police.
Felicito a nuestra @PoliciaColombia por la captura de Juan Carlos Mesa Vallejo alias ‘Tom’, principal cabecilla de la Oficina de Envigado y quien además tenía alianza con el Clan del Golfo. La lucha #ContraElNarcotráfico no se detiene. https://t.co/OaeIrVs2nV
— Juan Manuel Santos (@JuanManSantos) December 9, 2017
Mesa was arrested whilst celebrating his 50th birthday with female friends by National police in what they are calling “Operation Omega”. Amongst his guests was Jhon Jairo Velásques Vásquez, better known as “Popeye”, and former hitman and member of Pablo Escobar’s inner circle. Popeye was released on parole on August 26 in 2014 after serving 23 years in prison for multiple crimes including the murders of over 250 people, and the kidnappings and killings of various politicians.
Investigations are now taking place into “Popeye’s” relationship with “Tom” and “Los Chatas” group. Furthermore, prosecutors have asked a judge to look into whether “Popeye” has failed to comply with the requirements of his parole.
If Popeye has violated his parole, he could be facing another 17 years in prison.