Colombia’s former vice minister of Agriculture was sent to jail for his part in the AIS agriculture subsidy scandal that saw wealthy land and business owners receive large payments intended for needy rural farmers, reported local media Monday.
A Bogota judge ruled there was sufficient evidence against former vice-Minster of Agriculture Juan Camilo Salazar, the former Director of Trade and Finance Toro Camila Reyes and former heads of the legal office Tulia Eugenia Mendez and Oskar Schroeder Muller to place them under preventative detention.
The former officials were charged with issuing contracts without meeting legal requirements and undue interest in the contracts. The charge of embezzlement by appropriation was rejected by the court for lack of evidence.
All four pleaded not-guilty to the charges. Defense lawyers immediately filed an appeal for reconsideration to be decided this afternoon when you restart the audience.
The judge rejected the Prosecutors plea for house arrest, saying there is no reason the officials should be sheltered with this measure. They will be taken to El Buen Pastor and La Picota prison in Bogota.
In the biggest scandal to ever hit the Colombian agricultural industry, beauty queens, wealthy families, and then-President Alvaro Uribe supporters were given huge sums of money than was intended for poor farmers, in a bid to promote productivity and competition and reduce inequality.
Earlier today, the government announced the subsidy scheme will return this year under a new name, the Rural Development Equity Program (DRE), and tighter precautionary measures.