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Coffee Broker Flees U.S. Custody, Reportedly to Colombia

June 3, 1993

MIAMI (AP) _ A coffee broker convicted in a $100 million fraud case has fled to his native Colombia, which has no extradition treaty with the United States, a Colombian newspaper said Wednesday.

Alberto Duque, 42, was living at a Miami halfway house while awaiting a parole hearing June 11. But creditors had recently written a memo to U.S. Bankruptcy Court charging he continues to hide money in foreign accounts while claiming he is indigent.

″Duque anticipated what might happen,″ said Roma Theus II, a creditor’s attorney. ″He didn’t want to take chances.″

Duque’s attorney, Benson Weintraub, said the creditors’ claims were based on ″false information.″ But Weintraub said Duque was frustrated by the likely effect of the memo on his parole hearing.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the memo might come to bear on Duque’s hearing before the U.S. parole commission.

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami, declined to comment on Duque.

Duque is the scion of a wealthy coffee-growing family in Colombia. The Miami-based broker was known as the ″Boy Coffee King″ in the early 1980s, at one time controlling Chase & Sanborn, Colombian Coffee Co. and General Coffee Co.

But his empire collapsed in 1983 when creditors discovered he had taken out about $100 million in loans backed by non-existent coffee beans supposedly held in his warehouses.

Duque was convicted in 1986 of 60 fraud counts and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was later released to a halfway house in downtown Miami, and starting in December was allowed to leave it during the day.

He failed to return May 18, and arrived the next day by air at Bogota, Colombia, the Colombian newspaper La Prensa reported.

Duque spent the next two nights in a golf and country club in Giradot, two hours from Bogota, where his family owns a hotel, La Prensa said.

Duque has claimed that the hotel in Giradot and other property belong to his father. But U.S. banks say the properties are his, and La Prensa said its sources confirmed Duque owns the hotel himself.

He has now left the hotel and gone into hiding, La Prensa said.

Colombia abolished extradition in its most recent constitution in an effort to end drug-related violence.

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