April 4, 2013 / 9:09 PM / 6 years ago

Colombia's notorious emerald czar dies of cancer

Colombian infamous miner Victor Carranza, known as 'The Emerald Czar', is seen in this undated handout photo released to Reuters April 4, 2013. Carranza, 77, who controlled some of the nation's largest emerald mines, including Puerto Arturo in the Andean mountains of Boyaca, died on Thursday after a long battle with cancer. REUTERS/El Tiempo Newspaper

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Victor Carranza, an infamous Colombian miner known as “The Emerald Czar” for his leading role in the nation’s gems trade, died on Thursday after a long battle with cancer.

Carranza, 77, controlled some of the nation’s largest emerald mines, including Puerto Arturo in the Andean mountains of Boyaca. He was also one the Colombia’s biggest landowners.

The rugged-looking Carranza, with his trade-mark mustache and wide-brimmed hat, was a controversial figure who survived at least two assassination attempts and was investigated for links to right-wing paramilitary groups.

Carranza died of complications related to prostate cancer, according to local media.

He spent nearly three years in jail while being investigated for possible links with criminal gangs, but was released in early 2001. A judge later acquitted him of all charges.

Colombia is one of the world’s top emerald producers. The emerald trade in the country has been tainted by crime and violence, with rival groups fighting for control of mines in the mid-1970s in a conflict known as the Green War.

Hundreds of people were killed in the 1980s when drug lord Pablo Escobar tried and failed to seize control of the emerald trade, allegedly to launder drug money.

Before passing away, Carranza had said his death could again unleash a war for control of the emerald trade among illegal armed groups.

Reporting by Eduardo Garcia and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Todd Eastham

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