Former Agricultural Minister Andres Felipe Arias was barred on Tuesday from holding public office for 16 years for granting government subsidies to politically powerful families rather than poor farmers for whom the subsidy was meant.
Colombia’s Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez announced the disciplinary sanction in the middle of a criminal investigation against Arias, who was long considered to be the prodigy of former President Alvaro Uribe and is a prominent columnist of newspaper El Colombiano. The newspaper’s director also received government money through the AIS subsidy stimulation fund.
Arias was responsible for granting government subsidies, according to the Inspector General’s ruling, as he had the final say in who was given the subsidies.
The former minister has found himself in severe career and legal trouble over his alleged corruption. The prosecutor general has frozen all his assets and the Conservative Party politician was forced to turn down an ambassadorship to Rome because of the growing legal pressure.
According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, which is in charge of the criminal investigation against Arias, the minister used the subsidies to gather political support in Colombia’s powerful agricultural sector.
A number of recipients of the grant, including a former Miss Colombia, are also being investigated by the Prosecutor General’s Office.