A key witness in a multi-million dollar scrap metal embezzlement scam in which the sons of former President Alvaro Uribe have been implicated, has died following an assassination attempt, local media reported Friday.

Jose Aldemar was the business partner of the so-called “Junk Czar” James Francisco Arias and allegedly involved in an elaborate scam that defrauded the state out of ten of millions of dollars.

He died in hospital little more than a week after being shot in a restaurant in Envigado, a city bordering Medellin.

The assassination

Colonel Diego Vásquez, Operational Commander of Medellin’s Metropolitan Police, revealed the details of the attack outside of Colombia’s second largest city.

“He was outside at a table alone, apparently he met with an appointment and it was at this point when two people arrived on a motorcycle” who opened fire on the suspected fraudster, according to the police official.

Moncada who was under house arrest in Cartagena due to bad health but for undisclosed reasons was permitted to travel to Medellin last week.

He had three convictions for money laundering in an embezzlement amounting to about $68 billion (COP200 billion), according to the prosecution.

The victim was linked to companies such as Metals Medellin, Comercializadora Almetales and Fundalcert, which according to the prosecution were used in the mega-fraud, headed by the Junk Czar.

Both sons of former Colombia president Alvaro Uribe, Thomas and Jeronimo are under investigation for their business dealings with the Junk Czar and possible implication in criminal activity.

The junk scam

During the course of the embezzlement scam the Junk Czar managed to amass a fortune of more than a quarter of a billion pesos in less than five years.

In the business of buying and selling scrap he found two ways to make easy money, both illegal: smuggling from Venezuela and defrauding the Directorate of National Taxes and Customs (DIAN) through illegal recoveries of VAT.

Researchers at the time of the discovery of the scam told El Tiempo newspaper how it was carried out. “The trick was the selling value. It was 120 pesos per kilo but billed at 2,500 pesos. Then they transacted the recovery of VAT at the DIAN.”

This embezzlement of funds from the DIAN was through illicit import records and fictional scrap exports to the US, China and Spain.

Moncada himself who was under house arrest since November 18 was brought to trial by three processes and was convicted of all three.

The first involved a 1 year and 9 months sentence for fraud, embezzlement and money  laundering; the second, a sentence of 103 months for money laundering and illicit enrichment; and finally, an eight year sentence for conspiracy, forgery, embezzlement and fraud trial.

In addition, the prosecution gave permission to remove goods worth at least 24 billion pesos from his possession.

His murder comes at a time when the Prosecution continue to investigate the main culprits in the scam aswell as their links with a ring of businessmen and public officials.

Moncada was linked to the millionaire scam with other entrepreneurs in Barranquilla, Santa Marta, Pereira, Cúcuta and Ibagué.

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Colombia Reports