Colombia’s top anti-corruption prosecutor was arrested in Bogota on Tuesday on US charges he had bribed a former governor months before being appointed by Colombia’s Prosecutor General.
The charges of the top official are the second coming from a US court this year and affect top officials from across the board, in particular that of Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez, who already is implicated in the Odebrecht bribery scandal that broke after US charges earlier this year.
The appointment of the allegedly corrupt Luis Gustavo Moreno to lead his anti-corruption department is Martinez’ second major embarrassment since he was elected by the Supreme Court in July last year.
Before being appointed anti-corruption chief, the arrested official had been the defense attorney of multiple corrupt and allegedly corrupt elected officials.
Notwithstanding, the Prosecutor General’s Office said in a statement that Moreno’s arrest had “gravely hurt our institutional integrity.”
With indignation and profound institutional pain, I am obliged to inform the public that the director of the Specialized Prosecution’s Office against Corruption, Luis Gustavo Moreno Rivera, has just been captured by an elite unit of the Technical Investigation Unit of the Prosecutor General’s Office with the support of the US Drug Enforcement Agency, for conduct that seriously damages our institutional integrity and in contraction of whom he received the utmost confidence when assigned the responsibility managing one of the most important programs of this entity: the fight against corruption.
Prosecutor General’s Office
The anti-corruption chief is replaced by Alberto Salas, who previously replaced the Deputy Internal Affairs Director of tax agency DIAN in 2011 after she and 18 (former) employees were arrested and ultimately convicted for allegedly embezzling $99 million from collected tax money.
The US charges
According to the US Justice Department, Moreno received a $10,000 bribe from a former governor of the northwestern Cordoba province a month before Martinez’ election, allegedly after Moreno and a second attorney demanded $130,000 to make criminal charges for corruption go away.
Both were immediately sent to the luxury ward Bogota’s La Picota’s prison to join drug lords and other corrupt government officials to await his extradition.
Former governor Alejandro Lyons (U Party), who faces 20 corruption charges in Colombia, admitted the bribery before US authorities after which the DEA began investigating Moreno.
The political shock wave in Colombia
Vargas’ party was one of the hardest hit by the so-called parapolitics scandal that has already resulted in prison sentences for many dozens of Colombian congressmen and governors after having used death squads for their political benefit.
The official is additionally a close ally of former President Alvaro Uribe‘s and his hard-right Democratic Center party, which also is against the judicial wall because of innumerable ties to corruption, drug trafficking, election fraud and war crimes.
The arrested official was the attorney of former Antioquia governor and former Luis Alfredo Ramos, one of the CD’s presidential primary candidates but withdraw over accusations he had ties to a drug trafficking paramilitary group.
Criminal charges against Uribe, whose late father and late brother were close associates of the Medellin Cartel, range from illegal land grabbing to complicity in some the most serious war crimes committed during Colombia’s half-a-century armed conflict.
The second US corruption charges implicating almost all of Colombia’s major political player is of particular significance as it comes in the middle of an ongoing and US-supported peace process with the country’s largest Marxist rebel group, the FARC.
The arrest of the country’s top anti-corruption prosecutor follows just days after the arrest of the presidential adviser on regional issues, both key positions for the implementation of justice and reparation of victims.
Coincidentally, the now-disgraced presidential adviser Carlos Ecuardo Correa (Conservative Party) was the mayor of the capital of Cordoba, Monteria, between 2012 and 2015, the same years Lyons was governor.