The congressional commission investigating the bribery of Colombia’s Supreme Court by lawmakers said on Tuesday that the country’s former chief prosecutor and his deputy should face criminal charges.
According to the chairman of the Accusations Commission, House Representative Edward Rodriguez (Democratic Center), former Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre and his deputy Jorge Perdomo were part of a network of judicial officials that sought to frustrate investigations against congressmen.
The so-called “Toga Cartel” came to light in 2017 when the anti-corruption chief of Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez was arrested on DEA claims that he had accepted bribes from a former governor.
The scandal has since grown to involve congressmen, prosecution officials and several (former) Supreme Court magistrates, and has led to the jailing of former Supreme Court president Francisco Ricaurte.
The “criminal organization” in the top of the justice system
In a blistering report, the accusations committee told Congress that former Supreme Court magistrate Leonidas Bustos was the “head of a criminal organization” dedicated to receiving bribes from public officials investigated by the court.
Sitting Supreme Court magistrate Eyder Patiño, whose visa was recently revoked by the US embassy, should also be investigated, according to commission.
Bustos, who allegedly got extradited anti-corruption prosecutor Gustavo Moreno his job, “took advantage of his academic and intellectual prowess to influence the illegal rulings that came from the criminal organization,” according to the House commission.
The former judge reportedly fled to Canada in November and has not been seen in Colombia since.
While Montealegre’s name had been mentioned in the scandal before, it is unclear how the former chief prosecutor and his deputy were involved in the corruption network.
The next steps
The order to investigate the allegedly corrupt justice officials is the first ruling ever by the Accusations Commission that has become infamous for its failure to investigate alleged corruption.
However, in order for the allegedly corrupt justice officials to be formally investigated, will first have to be approved by the House of Representatives where the powerful suspects have significant influence.
If the House approves the order to open a criminal investigation, the Supreme Court will assume the investigation against the suspects.
In order to restore its credibility, the Supreme Court already ousted former magistrate Gustavo Malo, who is also accused of being part of the Toga Cartel. No steps have yet been taken against Patiño, whose alleged involvement in the scandal has so far been unclear.
Montealegre, who has been facing corruption allegations for years, has denied involvement in the Toga Cartel.