Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office is illegally spying on the country’s high courts, local and foreign journalists, human rights defenders and politicians, prosecution officials told newspaper La Nueva Prensa.
According to the whistleblowers, former chief prosecutor Nestor Humberto Martinez set up an elaborate system that allowed the wiretapping of anyone deemed a potential liability for the national government and banking conglomerate Grupo Aval, Martinez’ former employer and the sponsor of President Ivan Duque‘s 2018 presidential campaign.
Duque, Grupo Aval and Martinez have all been accused of involvement in the Odebrecht bribery scandal.
Spying on foreign journos and in the United States
Multiple agents of the prosecution’s technical investigation unit CTI told the newspaper that among the intercepted journalists are foreign correspondents and that the illegal activity is also carried out in the United States.
According to the sources, the wiretaps “are ordered arbitrarily, without judicial oversight and without being part of any investigation,” reported La Nueva Prensa.
The initial order for the illegal spying was reportedly given by Martinez, who resigned earlier this month and is currently overseen by acting deputy Prosecutor Jaime Camacho.
Camacho’s superior, acting Prosecutor General Fabio Espitia, denied last week his office was used for illegally wiretapping the Constitutional Court, which previously had expressed suspicions that it was being spied on.
According to La Nueva Prensa, the Constitutional Court is not the only high court that’s being spied on; the Supreme Court would also be wiretapped.
Where to look for the spies
According to the whistleblowers, the prosecution’s illegal wiretapping activities are carried out “from Building 1” of the Prosecutor General’s main office in the capital Bogota.
“They are doing it from the [wiretapping units] Esperanza, Oro, Rubi and others,” one of the anonymous sources specified.
The idea is to illegally collect any information that can be used to make intimidating accusations or to create scandals against certain individuals through the press office of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
Anonymous prosecution official
According to the sources there are entire teams dedicated to carrying out the illegal wiretapping activities.
The alleged mastermind behind the reported illegal spying, Camacho, is the former defense attorney of Maria del Pilar Hurtado, the imprisoned former director of now-defunct intelligence agency DAS that was spying on the Supreme Court, journalists, politicians and human rights defenders deemed a liability for former President Alvaro Uribe, Duque’s political patron.
The current deputy Prosecutor General is also accused of being involved in the bribery of Supreme Court justices by Martinez’ former anti-corruption chief, who is currently in prison in the United States.
The revelation of La Nueva Prensa came a day after Foreign Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo claimed that the “total freedom of press” is guaranteed by the Duque administration.