The former chief justice of Colombia’s Supreme Court was arrested Wednesday for his alleged role in a corruption scandal that has the country’s judicial system shaken to its foundations.
Justice Francisco Ricaurte is one of four (former) Supreme Court justices accused of having accepted bribes to favor allegedly corrupt congressmen, some with ties to paramilitary groups.
According to Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez, Ricaurte was arrested on four charges of corruption.
Last night’s capture of the former president of the Supreme Court of Justice, Francisco Ricaurte, means the fall of one of the symbols of judicial clientelism that has battered the dignity of justice so much.
Political website La Silla Vacia
Ricaurte would have accepted bribes from Martinez’ hand-picked anti-corruption chief, Gustavo Moreno, who was arrested in June after pressure by the United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration.
The arrest resulted in a snowball effect that has put the very system in an unprecedented situation.
Above all, he was the visible head of the group of judges who took power in the justice system at the tip of “I choose you, you choose me.”
La Silla Vacia
Never before in the history of the Supreme Court has one of its justices been jailed, reported newspaper El Tiempo.
The newspaper reported that Ricaurte’s attorney, Alvaro Luna, has denied the charges.
Political system hit in the heart
The implication of members of both Colombia’s Congress and highest court puts the country’s judicial system in an unprecedented situation, as no government body seems fit to adequately try the suspects.
- Senator Piedad Zuccardi (U Party)
- Senator Alvaro Ashton (Liberal Party)
- Senator Hernan Andrade (Conservative Party)
- Senator Musa Besayle (U Party)
- Senator Bernardo Elias (U Party)
- House Representative Hernando Padaui (Radical Change)
- Former Senator Zulema Hattin (U Party)
- Former Senator Julio Manzur (Conservative Party)
- Governor Dilian Francisco Torres (U Party)
- Former Governor Luis Alfredo Ramos (Conservative Party)
- Former Governor Alejandro Lyons (U Party)
Implicated judicial officials
- Supreme Court Justice Gustavo Malo
- Supreme Court Justice Eyder Patiño
- Former Supreme Court Justice Leonidas Bustos
- Former Supreme Court Justice Camilo Tarquino
- Former Supreme Court Justice Francisco Ricaurte
- Former Prosecutor General Eduardo Montealegre
- Former Prosecutor Gustavo Moreno
- Former Prosecutor Raul Acero
According to Colombia’s 1991 Constitution, the Supreme Court is supposed to investigate congressmen while Congress’ Accusations Committee is supposed to investigate members of the high courts and top judicial officials.
However, as both branches of government appeared to have conspired, these investigations would lack any credibility because of the evident conflicts of interests.
Furthermore, according to newspaper El Espectador, the Accusations Committee has not ruled in any of almost 3,500 investigations since 1992. More than 1,500 investigations never really got off the ground off and almost 2,000 investigations have simply been filed without a ruling.
To solve this, the government has again proposed to form a Tribunal for the Immune that would replace the Accusations Committee and would have the mandate to try top members of the judicial branch.
This tribunal proposal was first proposed by the Santos administration in 2014, but was rejected by the now-disgraced judicial branch.
The government announced earlier this week it would hold a referendum to seek ratification of the judicial reform.
This tribunal could be incorporated in a political reform currently being debated by Congress as part of legislation related to a peace deal with guerrilla group FARC.
Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez, who personally appointed the anti-corruption prosecutor now in the eye of the hurricane, has already agreed to such a tribunal.
However, Congress has yet to confirm it will include this tribunal in the reform.