Colombia’s former agriculture minister has been found guilty of embezzling of $25 million earmarked to support ailing farmers but ended up in the wallets of political elites, local media reported Friday.
According to an alleged Supreme Court verdict that had not been formally released, former Minister Andres Felipe Arias is guilty of embezzlement after prosecutors successfully demonstrated that the minister had funneled state subsidies for poor farmers to wealthy and politically powerful families, a beauty queen and even former paramilitary frontmen.
The court did not yet rule on a sentence, but media reported that the Conservative Party politician and close ally of former President Alvaro Uribe will pay between 10 to 15 years in prison for the embezzlement scheme that broke in 2009.
Uribe, who has seen dozens of his political allies be put behind bars on corruption charges or proven ties to paramilitary death squads, denounced the announced sentence on Twitter as “politicking of justice and media.”
Por ayudar a Santos llegan al extremo de filtrar ponencia aun no votada en la Corte Suprema contra Arias Politiquería de justicia y medios
— Álvaro Uribe Vélez (@AlvaroUribeVel) June 13, 2014
Uribe has long insisted Arias had no role in the major corruption scandal and instead was the victim of a political persecution of himself and his political allies.
The former minister had already been barred from holding public office for 16 years by the country’s former Inspector General. However, in the court case, the Inspector General’s Office delegate surprisingly urged to release the former minister to be absolved of charges.
Arias then-vice-Minister, Juan Camilo Salazar, had already been sentenced to 10 years house arrest and a $45,000 fine after accpting to become government witness and testify against his former boss.
According to prosecutors, Arias — called Uribito because of his proximity to the former president — embezzled approximately $25 million of money meant to stimulate poor farmers to wealthy elites allegedly in order to seek political support. Millions of dollars subsequently returned to Arias’ campaign to become the Conservative Party’s candidate for the 2010 presidential elections.