Agrarian Bank President Francisco Estupiñan announced that some of the subsidies given to Colombia’s flower growers went to businesses that are no longer in operation, reports W Radio.
Flowers were used as a guarantee for those receiving the loans, but upon inspections of the flower fields, the bank found “abandoned lots without flowers.”
“The inspectors realized that some of the [lots] didn’t have crops, only the lot,” said Estupiñan. “The guarantee is now the lot that is abandoned.”
The bank is investigating how to proceed with punishments for those who fraudulently received subsidies, and how to receive repayment of the loans, which are due in February and March of 2011.
In October, the Colombian government announced the immediate suspension of the payment of $27 million in subsidies to the country’s flower sector, amid growing concerns about corruption and the mismanagement of subsidies and loans.
Agriculture Minister Juan Camilo Restrepo said that the government will not release the subsidies, granted by the previous government of Alvaro Uribe just days before the end of that administration’s term, until there is clarity concerning the allegations.
The exporters are accused of having used government loans, intended to compensate them for the appreciation of the peso in 2008, to buy real estate in Ecuador and to financially support the political campaign of former Agriculture Minister Andres Felipe Arias, who aspired to be the Conservatives’ 2010 presidential candidate.
Of the $123 million loan from 2008, $14 million is reported to be missing.