Colombia’s chief prosecutor evades corruption hearing and leaves country

Former Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez (Image: Prosecutor General's Office)

Colombia’s resigned chief prosecutor said Friday that he has left the country, a week before he was supposed to be interrogated by the Supreme Court over his alleged ties to corruption.

Martinez told Canal 1 that he took a “necessary rest” after a war crimes tribunal order to investigate him for “serious irregularities” triggered his furious resignation.

The chief prosecutor had become one of the United States’ most loyal allies in Colombia after the US Justice Department discovered multiple corruption scandals tied to Martinez.

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How Martinez’ humiliation avoided another humiliation

The chief prosecutor was supposed to appear before the Supreme Court on Thursday over his possible removal from all cases related to the Odebrecht bribery scandal because of his conflict of interest in one of the biggest corruption scandals of the past decades.

The court will now meet on Tuesday to decide whether or not to accept the resignation of Martinez and vice-Prosecutor General Maria Paulina Riveros.

Martinez’ announced his “irrevocable resignation” on Wednesday after the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) ordered the release of FARC leader “Jesus Santrich” on a so-far unsubstantiated US drug trafficking charge and ordered investigations into possible misconduct by the prosecution and the United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration.It is unclear whether Martinez will be present at the hearing as he told CM& Noticias he will be “away for the time necessary to get my things together.”

Opposition Senator Maria Angela Robledo said on Twitter that Martinez’ resignation had everything to do with the pending corruption hearing and not his disagreement with the JEP’s decision to bin the FARC leader’s extradition request.

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How things got this messed up

Martinez was the judicial adviser of banking conglomerate Grupo Aval when one of its subsidiaries and Brazilian business partner were bribing government officials. Additionally, there is evidence he was warned about the criminal activity in 2015, a year before being the Supreme Court appointed him Prosecutor General.

As chief prosecutor he took no steps to investigate the corruption until after the US Justice Department revealed the Brazilian engineering firm’s corruption practices in Colombia in late 2016.

A special prosecutor took over several lines of investigation after the mysterious deaths of the key witness and his son, but Martinez and his office continued to investigate other parts of the corruption scandal in which the chief prosecutor has a conflict of interest.

Before the Odebrecht bribery scandal became public, US authorities had already requested the extradition of Martinez’ anti-corruption chief on claims he was bribing Supreme Court judges to favor politicians.

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The explosion

When the JEP additionally ordered an investigation, Martinez proverbially exploded and, using the Prosecutor General’s Office’s Twitter, accused the transitional justice court of a “coup” and called on Colombians to protest against the JEP.

Some two dozen people showed up at the protest called for by the man who had become the personification of corruption in the country and had virtually destroyed Colombians’ confidence in their country’s corruption-ridden justice system.

Anti-corruption advocates and opposition politicians celebrated his departure. It is unclear where Martinez is currently staying.

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