The director of La Picota, Colombia’s largest prison, was arrested on Thursday after he allegedly was caught red-handed receiving bribes from inmates.
Mayor Luis Perdomo had been in charge of the Bogota prison for only three months.
His predecessor, Colonel German Ricaurte, was accused of sexual assault and labor harassment in January, but wasn’t fired until after reports that inmates were simply walking out of the prison without resistance from the guards.
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According to the prosecution, the top official of prison authority INPEC was caught receiving 20 million pesos ($3,400) from an unidentified inmate.
The Prosecutor General’s Office claimed that it had evidence that Perdomo received multiple payments from prisoners in the short time he was in charge of La Picota.
“The prison system needs immediate intervention” to curb rampant corruption, said Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez, who was accused of tax evasion earlier this week.
After a judge approved the prison director’s arrest, he was transferred to the maximum security Tramacua prison in Valledupar, a city in the north of Colombia.
Justice Minister Gloria Maria Borrero said her department “rejects any act of corruption and immediately promised full cooperation with the competent authorities” to clarify and possibly try the country’s most important prison director.
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Borrero appointed INPEC’s regional director Imelda Lopez as interim director.
Newspaper El Espectador reported last month that the prison guards’ labor union said that “the corruption comes from the highest level of power” without directly implicating the director of the institution.
Prisoners told the newspaper that “it’s very normal” that prison guards get drunk with inmates. “You can do anything if you have money,” an anonymous prisoner told the newspaper.