This article examines the linkages between organized armed violence, land grabbing and the Colombian state, where paramilitary groups are key actors in recent large-scale land transfers. The author argues that institutional and violent mechanisms of land grabbing must be understood as historical processes of state formation and market reconfiguration. As such, crime and violence are not considered as extraneous factors, separated from political institutions and the market; they are instead analysed as constitutive components of political competition, accumulation and economic development. This article provides an analysis of these processes through an examination of agribusiness-related land grabs in the Lower Atrato Valley in northwestern Colombia, illuminating the relations between private counter-insurgent violence, criminal networks and state incentives to agribusiness.