Colombia’s former Agriculture Minister Andres Felipe Arias finished his first day at trial Wednesday, facing embezzlement charges over his alleged role in the Agro Ingreso Seguro (AIS) corruption scandal.
Colombia’s Prosecutor General Viviane Morales formally laid the charges against the disgraced ex-minister. Arias was responsible for the creation of an agricultural subsidy program AIS which allegedly redirected funds meant for poor farmers into the hands of wealthy families.
Before the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, Morales accused the disgraced former minister of directly managing the corrupt program and of being responsible for “a misappropriation of state funds.” The prosecutor general told the court that although Arias was well aware of what was going on with AIS “he did nothing to correct it, nor did he give orders for review.”
Morales claimed that Arias used AIS “as a platform for his own presidential campaign” and claimed that the whole agricultural subsidy program was simply a “disguise” under which Arias could manage public funds and not a system to benefit the agricultural sector.
Arias has been defended by former President Alvaro Uribe, who has continually claimed the innocence of his one-time protege Arias. Uribe implied that Arias was the victim of a conspiracy within the judicial branch and that he “conceived of Agro Ingreso Seguro so that the national agriculture could be competitive.”
Arias has been in jail since July, awaiting trial for embezzling $25 million through the agricultural subsidy program.