Colombian financial authorities announced they will investigate flower exporters who received millions of dollars in 2008 in loans to compensate the appreciation of the peso, and allegedly used the money to buy farmhouses in Ecuador and contribute to the primary campaign of former Agriculture Minister Andres Felipe Arias, who granted the subsidies.
Comptroller General Sandra Morelli told Caracol Radio that her unit has created a special group to investigate what happened to the $123 million stimulus that was granted after flower exporters complained the strong peso was hurting their exports.
According to newspaper El Espectador, $14 million of that money has now disappeared and at least ten recipients of the subsidy were registered among the most generous financial supporters of Arias’ campaign to become the Conservative Party‘s 2010 presidential candidate.
Asocolflores, the association of Colombian flower exporters, said the money was wired directly to individual flower exporters and denies involvement in or knowledge of in any fraudulent use of the subsidies.
It is the second time Arias comes under fire over agricultural subsidies that allegedly were fraudulently granted and ended up on the accounts of his political campaign. The former minister is currently under criminal investigation for the granting of agricultural subsidies, meant to help poor farmers, to wealthy families.