Former Army Commander Mario Montoya has said in a public statement that he was unaware of changes made to the controversial Tolemaida military detention center, Colombian media reported Wednesday.
Montoya said that he visited the prison, which holds former army officers accused of committing serious crimes, including crimes against humanity, only once in his three years as commander, between 2006-2008.
“During this same lapse of three years at the front of the Army Command, I did not in any moment order or approve the execution of any type of construction and/or conversions. The army command, under my order, did not give money either to assist with civil projects in the mentioned detention center,” said Montoya.
The former general added that when retired Major Juan Carlos Rodriguez was admitted to the prison by the national prison authority, INPEC, Montoya had already finished his post as army commander and begun work as Colombian Ambassador in the Dominican Republic.
Rodriguez, alias “Zeus,” was among a number of high-profile inmates who were allegedly allowed to hold parties and host prostitutes at Tolemaida.
Montoya’s statement came as a response to an investigation released in the past issue of Semana magazine, which presented testimonies from Tolemaida prisoners who stated that Montoya and former Army Commander General Oscar Gonzalez had provided them with gifts, including private cabins.
The Colombian government claimed Tuesday that INPEC, was prevented by the army from inspecting the Tolemaida military detention center where former officers were apparently granted certain privileges.
The prison was reportedly converted into a sort of resort, in which military detainees lived in high-class conditions, could easily make business deals, go to local restaurants and clubs, spend holidays in resorts on the Caribbean coast and retain salaries and other benefits from their army careers.