Colombia’s prosecution is investigating the role of its former Technical Investigations Unit (CTI) director over the manipulation of evidence in the witness tampering case against former President Alvaro Uribe, according to weekly Semana.
The weekly reported on Sunday that the former director of the CTI, Danny Julian Quintana, will have to explain to investigators on Friday how audio that was obtained through wiretaps ended up partially erased or distorted.
The inquiry into the former CTI chief is part of a much broader investigation into the alleged abuse of the prosecution’s wiretapping units both by authorities and external parties with access to corrupt officials.
Who is doing Uribe illegal favors?
In the case of the Uribe recordings, prosecutors found that Quintana in 2015 gave the order to change the wiretapping equipment and erase the logs of the wiretaps “to save energy,” according to Semana.
At the time, the prosecutors were wiretapping the caretaker of one of Uribe’s estates and his son, who are key witnesses in the witness tampering case.
Juan Guillermo Monsalve, a former member of the “Bloque Metro” and the son of the former caretaker, is one of the surviving witnesses who testified that Uribe founded the paramilitary group together with his neighbors, the Gallon and Villegas families.
Quintana’s decision to save energy is now disallowing investigators to find out who accessed the files and manipulated the evidence.
This is not the first time Quintana’s name popped up in alleged criminal activity. In July 2015, his wife was arrested when entering the country from Panama with more than $200,000 in cash hidden in her luggage.
The “ghost chamber”
The investigation, Semana reported, has found multiple irregularities that for example allowed an illegal spying ring led by former security and intelligence officials to use the prosecution’s wiretapping units. Other investigations were undermined because illegal wiretaps blocked the carrying out of legal wiretaps.
Furthermore, investigators reportedly found there is “ghost chamber” with wiretapping equipment in the main office of the Prosecutor General’s Office in Bogota that would allow the wiretapping of anyone without any kind of warrant.
An official alerted superiors about the existence of this facility that was frequently visited by members of the police and the army. Following the complaint, the prosecution barred the entry of members of the security forces to the facility.
The four officials working in the unit, which reportedly was coordinated by a health official with no experience in law enforcement, were all men of confidence of former Bogota police commander General Humberto Guatibonza.
All eyes on Colombia’s anti-extortion unit
Guatibonza is one of the suspects in the investigation against an illegal wiretapping ring that operated from southwest Colombia that had access to other wiretapping facilities, namely of the GAULA, reported Semana.
The retired general used to command this anti-kidnapping and anti-extortion unit.
According to the weekly, the wiretap facilities assigned to this police unit were used for unwarranted wiretapping of the police departments in Barranquilla and Cali.
Furthermore, by illegally bugging phone lines, the GAULA’s wiretap unit reportedly blocked warranted wiretapping efforts in legitimate criminal investigations of other authorities.
The investigation is still ongoing, but the reports increasingly indicate how the prosecution’s wiretapping facilities failed to be shielded from infiltration by criminal actors or security officials carrying out illegal activity.
Newspaper La Prensa previously reported that at least some of the illegal wiretapping activity was permitted by officials much higher in the hierarchy of the Prosecutor General’s Office, namely acting Vice Prosecutor General Jaime Camacho.