President Alvaro Uribe on Monday rejected the resignation of the head
of Colombia’s financial-intelligence office Mario Aranguren. The official sought to step down
after it emerged he gave confidential financial data to security
operatives engaged in illegal espionage against public figures.
Uribe’s decision was based on Mario Aranguren’s “outstanding”
performance as head of the Financial Information and Analysis Unit, or
UIAF, the presidential press office said.
reporters earlier that he submitted his resignation to facilitate the
investigation into illegal spying by personnel of the DAS security
The latest in a series of scandals at DAS became public
in January, with news accounts about wiretapping of politicians,
journalists and judges.
Last month, Bogota’s Caracol Radio
reported that the Colombian Prosecutor General’s office had evidence
showing four separate groups within DAS conducted the illegal
eavesdropping, using equipment provided by the United States and
Each group was assigned targets by senior DAS officials
and the groups’ files were found to contain information about the
credit reports and personal finances of magistrates and court employees.
was the existence of a folder marked ‘Vices and Weaknesses,’ in which
is provided a detailed report about very intimate matters of opposition
political leaders and judges. They provided details about sexual
preferences, whether or not the people had lovers, if they consumed
liquor or drugs,” Caracol said.
Some of the financial details
contained in those files were found to have been provided by UIAF –
whose brief is investigating money laundering – and Aranguren said it
is common for DAS, the PG’s office and the police to approach his unit
with requests for information.
The scandal over the unlawful wiretaps has forced Uribe to ban DAS from conducting electronic surveillance.
story was broken by Colombian newsweekly Semana, which said the targets
of the spying included Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos – seen as a
future presidential hopeful – and the head of the National Police, Gen.
Also monitored were former President Cesar
Gaviria, erstwhile Supreme Court Chief Justice Francisco Javier
Ricaurte, who has frequently sparred with Uribe; and several of the
country’s most influential journalists.
Spy scandals are nothing new in Colombia.
2007, Uribe sacked his top police chiefs after the telephone bugging of
opposition members, state officials and journalists came to light.
previous DAS director, Maria del Pilar Hurtado, resigned late last year
after admitting her subordinates had been spying on opposition Sen.
Gustavo Petro, who has been a key figure in exposing ties between Uribe
allies and right-wing paramilitaries.
Another previous DAS
director, Jorge Noguera, is behind bars while under investigation for
allegedly colluding with the militias.
Petro said in February
that the administration was behind the latest illegal wiretaps, but
Uribe has vehemently denied the accusation, saying that “a criminal
gang” operating within the agency and at the service of drug
traffickers was responsible.