Prosecutors in northern Colombia found firearms and a large pile of cash in the campaign office of a lawmaker two days after she was elected Senator.
Merlano’s sister and four other campaign workers were arrested in Barranquilla on Tuesday after prosecutors found four firearms and almost $100,000 in cash in the office in a raid.
The suspects were immediately indicted on election fraud charges. The judge dismissed charges that the campaign team was guilty of money laundering, illicit enrichment and the illegal carrying of firearms.
The authorities said they were following up on accusations that Merlano achieved her election on Sunday through an elaborate vote-buying system.
The House Representative was elected to the highest chamber of the Colombian Congress on Sunday with more than 73,000 votes.
The Senator-elect, a prodigy of Senator Roberto Gerlein, was not arrested as members of Congress can only be investigated by the Supreme Court.
The Conservative Party did not immediately suspend the lawmaker, but announced an investigation into the alleged claims of election fraud, money laundering, illicit enrichment and the carrying of illegal firearms.
Vote-buying is one of the most common forms of election fraud in Colombia.