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Drummond Colombia executives to be tried for financing paramilitary group

By Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA, May 31 (Reuters) - The current Colombia head of coal miner Drummond Co Inc and his predecessor will be tried for allegedly funding right-wing paramilitaries, the country's attorney general's office said in a statement on Wednesday.

There is "abundant proof" that current head Jose Miguel Linares, who took up his post in 2013 after serving as vice-president of legal, and Augusto Jimenez, who headed the company's operations in Colombia between 1990 and the end of 2012, conspired to finance a paramilitary group, the prosecutor said.

"Linares Martinez and Jimenez Mejia, between 1996 and 2001, increased the value of a food provision contract with a provider company to obtain additional resources and use them to cover previously-agreed illegal obligations with the Juan Andres Alvarez front of the North Block of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)," the statement said.

The effort was a bid to protect assets and ensure the free operation of the U.S.-based company's mine in Cesar province, the statement added.

A Drummond representative said the company was analyzing the information before making a comment.

Drummond - Colombia's largest producer of thermal coal - has three mining contracts in the country and also holds a port concession in Magdalena province, on the Caribbean coast.

In 2022, the company produced 27.2 million tonnes of coal, and its exports hit 27.7 million tonnes.

Drummond expects to export around 30 million tons of coal this year, depending on weather conditions, Linares said this week. Paramilitary groups emerged in the 1980s, funded by ranchers, landowners, merchants and drug traffickers eager to defend themselves from attacks by leftist guerrilla groups.

The groups - accused of widespread human rights violations including murders, rapes and torture - demobilized under a peace deal in the 2000s, though many members later formed crime gangs. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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