In his first testimony since his June arrest, Colombia’s former anti-corruption chief said a Supreme Court justice received money from a senator investigated for ties to paramilitary groups.
Former top anti-corruption prosecutor Gustavo Moreno immediately began revealing alleged corruption practices carried out with members of Colombia’s high court after a plea bargain made with his former employer.
Recordings made by the United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had incriminated Moreno and three Supreme Court justices.
A fourth justice was later included in the investigation.
In his first testimony before the Supreme Court, Moreno told how the court’s former president, Francisco Ricaurte, had received $190 thousand (COP550 million) of $690 thousand (COP2 billion) paid by Senator Musa Besaile (U Party).
The justice presiding over the Senator’s case, Gustavo Malo, was also present at private meetings about the senator’s bribes.
Besaile, a political ally of President Juan Manuel Santos, for years has been investigated for allegedly having ties to paramilitary groups. The senator has already admitted to paying the bribe to prevent his arrest.
Moreno’s first testimony was only about the Mesaile case.
Both are suspected of also having paid the Supreme Court to obstruct investigations into their own alleged paramilitary ties.
The implication of members of both Colombia’s Congress and highest court puts the country’s judicial system in an unprecedented situation, as no government body seems fit to adequately try the suspects.
According to Colombia’s 1991 Constitution, the Supreme Court is supposed to investigate congressmen while Congress’ Accusations Committee is supposed to investigate members of the high courts and top judicial officials.
However, as both branches of government appeared to have conspired, these investigations would lack any credibility because of the evident conflicts of interests.
Furthermore, according to newspaper El Espectador, the Accusations Committee has not ruled in any of almost 3,500 investigations since 1992. More than 1,500 investigations never really got off the ground off and almost 2,000 investigations have simply been filed without a ruling.
To solve this, the government has again proposed to form a Tribunal for the Immune that would replace the Accusations Committee and would have the mandate to try top members of the judicial branch.
This tribunal proposal was first proposed by the Santos administration in 2014, but was rejected by the now-disgraced judicial branch.
The government announced earlier this week it would hold a referendum to seek ratification of the judicial reform.
This tribunal could be incorporated in a political reform currently being debated by Congress as part of legislation related to a peace deal with guerrilla group FARC.
Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez, who personally appointed the anti-corruption prosecutor now in the eye of the hurricane, has already agreed to such a tribunal.
However, Congress has yet to confirm it will include this tribunal in the reform.