Colombian police have arrested 12 of 14 tax officials suspected of embezzling billions of dollars in public funds, local media reported.
The suspects all work at DIAN, Colombia’s tax agency, and are accused of using false VAT forms to prevent the state from receiving money and then syphoning parts of that money into their own accounts.
Early estimates indicated that the officials may have prevented as much as $4.26 billion every year from reaching the treasurey, accounting for 10% of the nation’s annual tax revenues. The embezzlement scheme was reportedly in effect for five years during the Uribe administration.
Radio Caracol reported that the officials are believed to have pocketed $2 billion from 2004 to 2009.
The corruption scandal became public on Wednesday, after which authorities immediately started arresting suspected public officials.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos vowed in September last year to address Colombia’s corruption problem. On Wednesday — the day of the tax officials’ arrest — new legislation was signed to counter corruption.