Colombia’s former agriculture minister Andres Felipe Arias, jailed while awaiting trial over an embezzlement scandal, resigned from his Conservative Party Wednesday.
Arias announced his decision in a letter that arrived on the day that media reported his party has begun proceedings to have him expelled from the party.
The former agriculture minister has already been barred from holding public office for 18 years over the AIS subsidy scandal in which allegedly $25 million in state grants meant for poor farmers ended up with wealthy families and political allies of Arias and his superior, former President Alvaro Uribe.
According to reports, the Conservative Party asked the Supreme Court to submit evidence regarding Arias’ alleged role in the embezzlement scandal.
The former minister was charged and jailed in July 2011 while awaiting trial. He is one of four members of the previous administration facing criminal charges. Uribe’s former chief of staff is jailed while awaiting trial over his alleged role in the illegal wiretapping of government opponents, for which Uribe’s fugitive former spy chief is also charged. A second intelligence chief is in jail over ties to paramilitary groups and the former peace commissioner fled the country just before being charged over the fake demobilization of a non-existent FARC front.
Uribe has always firmly defended his allies and claims Arias is a political prisoner and victim of a political persecution against the former government.