A Supreme Court judge has ordered Colombia’s Congress to investigate the head of the court’s appeals chamber on bribery charges, local media reported Tuesday.
According to W Radio, the investigation order was issued by instruction chamber magistrate Cristina Lombana, who was recently removed by her colleagues from an investigation into former President Alvaro Uribe after failing to inform the court she used to work for the politician’s defense attorney.
Lombana surprisingly overturned a Supreme Court’s plenary chamber ruling from May that decided against an investigation, She did so after reportedly receiving evidence from US authorities implicating magistrate Eyder Patiño in the alleged bribery of multiple Supreme Court magistrates.
Patiño had been mentioned in the media in association with a corruption ring in which prosecution officials allegedly bartered deals between investigated congressmen and corrupt members of the high court.
The US embassy revoked Patiño’s visa earlier last month after former governor Alejandro Lyons turned state witness and accused the judge as one of multiple magistrates of having received bribes from allegedly corrupt lawmakers.
The so-called “Toga Cartel” scandal came to light in 2017, after Luis Gustavo Moreno, the anti-corruption chief of former Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez was arrested after the DEA recorded him accepting bribes totaling $10,000 from former Governor of Cordoba, Alejandro Lyons, who stands accused of crimes ranging from embezzlement to murder and para-politics.
The scandal has since grown to involve congressmen, prosecution officials and several (former) Supreme Court magistrates.
The accused would use Moreno as a go-between for access to the legal system in order to disrupt the cases against them.
One of the most notable casualties of the scandal has been former Supreme Court president Francisco Ricaurte, who was jailed over his involvement.
Over 25 former officials across all branches of government have since been implicated in the scandal, according to local media.
The order to investigate those implicated in the scandal was the first ever such ruling by the House Accusations Committee, which had become infamous for its inefficacy in tackling alleged corruption.
Patiño’s alleged involvement
Lombarda passed the motion overruling that of her fellow-magistrates after the House Accusations Commission provided her with a testimony given by Lyons, who is currently a protected witness of the DEA.
According to El Tiempo, the judge was also mentioned in DEA recordings of conversations between Lyons and Moreno, and was also named as a Supreme Court insider by implicated lawyer Leonardo Pinilla.
While initially refusing to allow Congress to investigate Patiño, the high court did ask former magistrate Gustavo Malo to leave his post after evidence emerged of his involvement in the corruption scandal, which the judge did in 2017.