Former Agriculture Minister Andres Felipe Arias accused Colombian authorities of pressuring former colleagues to testify against him in the Agro Ingreso Seguro (AIS) scandal investigation, in a Monday interview with Caracol Radio.
Arias said that a number of people claim that they have been pressured “very strongly” by the Prosecutor General’s Office to give testimony against him.
“There have been three people, one lawyer, one person who worked for me and another that worked in the campaign, that have informed me … that they were offered benefits in exchange for saying something against me,” said the ex-minister, though he was unwilling to specify the names of the people in question.
Arias added that he visited La Picota prison in Bogota this past weekend, to show solidarity with former colleagues from the Ministry of Agriculture who have been imprisoned for the scandal, among them Juan Camilo Salazar and Oscar Schroeder.
According to Arias, these men told him, “they can torture us but we won’t say anything, because you never gave us a single illegal instruction.”
Arias maintained that he did not misuse government funds, and stated, “It has been demonstrated that I did not rob one peso … All of the testimonies show that they [former ministry employees] never had contact with me.”
The former minister also condemned what he considers the “illogical” incarceration of his ex-colleagues, stating, “This is selective justice, that I cannot believe could exist in this country,” with regards to the pursuit of only a few former ministry employees for involvement in the scandal.
Arias’ assets were seized in February for alleged involvement in the AIS scandal, in which the misallocation of government agricultural subsidies allowed wealthy land and business owners to receive large payments intended for poor rural farmers.