A former adviser to ex-Agriculture Minister Andres Felipe Arias, who is currently in jail awaiting trial for embezzling millions of dollars in agricultural subsidies, has claimed that Arias was fully responsible for managing the ministry’s budget.
Colombian media reported Thursday that the former trade and finance director of the Agriculture Ministry, Camila Reyes del Toro, told the prosecutor general that Arias “had the last word” in determining how funds from the agricultural subsidy program Agro Ingresso Seguro (AIS) were allocated.
During his tenure as the Colombian Minister of Agriculture in the administration of former President Alvaro Uribe, Arias allegedly redirected government subsides meant for poor farmers into the hands of powerful families in exchange for political support.
The former minister has denied that he was aware of corruption in the program, maintaining that the subsidy was not “intended only for big business, because 99% of the beneficiaries were farmers,” Arias said in July 2011.
According to Reyes del Toro, Arias held a series of meetings with his staff once the scandal began to unfold in 2008 to ensure everyone’s stories matched Arias’ defense of the program.
Reyes del Toro was arrested and detained for a month, but was recently released because charges were not filed against her within the legal time limit.