The former rector of the Autonomous University in Colombia’s northern port city Barranquilla went in hiding after the military said he was a “gang leader” who robbed around $5 million from the university.
Former rector Ramses Vargas allegedly was the leader of a group of 10 people dedicated to embezzling funds from the university that has been plagued by corruption for more than a decade.
Prosecutors and members of the military arrested nine university executives and employees on Wednesday after a six-month investigation into the alleged mass embezzlement.
The investigators proved that in November 2017, the then rector and legal representative of the University, Ramses Vargas Lamadrid, amended statute 131-031 of December 5, 2003 to implement an administrative measure authorizing the collection of funds for pecuniary expenses.
Vargas became the rector of the university in 2013 after the arrest of his predecessor, Silvia Gette, a former stripper who inherited the academic institution after the death of her husband and granted former President Alvaro Uribe one of his honorary degrees.
The former rector and now alleged gang leader was the only suspect in the alleged conspiracy who was not arrested. He was reportedly warned about his pending arrest and fled.
It is uncertain whether the former rector is still in the country, but his attorney said Thursday that Vargas would surrender to authorities.
According to the prosecution, Vargas and his fellow-conspirators created a corruption network inside the university’s administration that allowed them to embezzle the funds made available for the rector’s discretionary spending.
All suspects will be charged with illicit enrichment, fraud, conspiracy to commit a crime and swindling, among other charges.
According to local newspaper El Heraldo, authorities have gone on a massive manhunt for the university’s former rector. Prosecutors raided his parents’ home in the north of Barranquilla. After he was not found there, authorities in the nearby city of Cartagena joined the search and prosecutors began searching for the missing “gang leader” on islands off the coast of the port city.