Colombia’s Supreme Court has turned its attention to the suspicious loss of key evidence that makes up part of processes against allegedly criminal politicians.
Judges of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court last month opened consideration of three episodes that revealed an inexplicably careless handling of evidence against suspected politicians from Valle del Cauca, Antioquia, Cundinamarca and the coffee region for their alleged involvement in parapolitics.
The supposition is the presence of a corrupt insider carrying out an intentional practice to manipulate evidence in favor of the accused “parapoliticians” or politicians who sought to boost their political career using paramilitary death squads.
According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, more than 11,000 politicians, officials and businessmen are suspected of having made pacts with the AUC.
With evidence going missing, it is possible for the accused criminals to escape justice.
The missing ‘Macaco’ files
The Supreme Court firstly addressed the alleged manipulation and concealment of a testimony that was made by former paramilitary commander Carlos Mario Jimenez, a.k.a. “Macaco,” imprisoned in the United States.
Three weeks ago, the office of Magistrate Maria del Rosario Gonzalez requested a copy of Macaco’s condemning testimony — given in late 2013 – but it was gone.
It was subsequently learned that Alvaro Alfonso Pastas, assistant magistrate assigned to the so-called Parapolitics Commission, had approached an assistant of the office to give him the document, and asked him not to tell anybody.
However, the office assistant decided to tell the office of President of the Criminal Chamber Jose Luis Barcelo who then ordered a review of Macaco’s condemnation and irregularities were discovered.
For example, although he was scheduled to interview Macaco over three days, the Assistant Magistrate Carlos Iban Mejia only spoke with him once. Additionally, the questioning was incomplete, failing to ask about the supposed links of the paramilitary with politicians.
The case of Macaco accompanied two others for the Supreme Court’s consideration.
Assistant Magistrate Pastas
Ivan Cortes, the current co-ordinator of the Commission of parapolitics, told his superiors that one witness had told him “apparently the assistant magistrate Alvaro Pastas received money for an issue of parapolitics.”
The witness, Andres Velez, confirmed the accusations to El Tiempo, further adding that “in addition, [Pastas] and Mejia stopped my statements and turned to geographical evidence.”
“Because of this I have filed three complaints for false testimony, but the Court is already investigating,” said Velez.
Pastas was put on non-active after the scandal.
The case against Uribe’s brother
The other episode involves the loss of evidence given by Carlos Meneses, a witness against former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s brother, Santiago, who is being investigated for allegedly founding and leading a paramilitary group that ended up killing leftist activists and politicians.
The lost evidence contains Meneses’ testimony against politicians from Valle and Eje Cafetero, which outlined alleged links with the mafia.
At the end of the Court session, the judges asked the Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the doubts surrounding the case of Macaco and the statements of Velez, according to El Tiempo.
Pastas denied the accusations against him in an interview with the new source, and said that he was saddened that the Court had not listened to his defense. Mejia also denied the claims of Velez.
The Supreme Court meanwhile asked the US for a new investigation of Macaco.
In the past six years, the high court has condemned to prison 61 Congressmen, 3 ministers, 37 governors, and numerous others.