The president of Colombia’s Constitutional Court — already in trouble over bribery allegations — has also been linked to paramilitary violence after investigators found that land he owns had been stolen from displaced farmers.
Prosecutors have called the wife of court president Jorge Pretelt, Martha Patron, for questioning after finding that the Pretelt family owns plots of land that was stolen from local farmers from the northwestern Uraba region by paramilitaries in the 1990s.
The official request stems from criminal proceedings which began in 2012 against ranchers leading a livestock fund in the region where the land was stolen.
Towards the end of the 1990s, in an apparent alliance with leaders of paramilitary organization AUC, the ranchers appropriated at least 6,500 hectares of land belonging to 60 families of farmers in Uraba.
Demobilized paramilitary commander Jesus Ignacio Roldan, a.k.a. “Monoleche,” gave statements in 2011 in regard to an area named Ranch 35.
Other than being a training ground for the AUC and the site of their victims’ mass graves, two country houses on the land owned by Pretelt were allegedly obtained through forced displacement.
According to newspaper El Espectador, the original owner, was forced to sell his property to the paramilitaries vastly under priced in March 1992.
The victim stated that he was told by the “El Burro”, a subordinate of AUC founders Casrlos and Vicente Castaño, that if he did not sell them his house they would make a “widow of his wife.”
The Land Restitution Units investigation reported that El Burro was under pressure to sell the properties, under direct orders from Salvatore Mancuso, who would later become the supreme leader of the AUC.
A statement from the Prosecutor General’s office reveals that Patron purchased mentioned properties in 2000 and 2003 accumulating over 100 hectares. She later put them in the name of her husband.
Carlos Sotomayor, the current manager and the largest shareholder of the Fund, was captured earlier this year.
He and four others have been accused with charges of conspiracy to commit crime, laundering assets and forced displacement. They could be further prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.