The United States arrested Colombia’s fugitive former agriculture minister who in his home country is facing a 17-year sentence for the embezzlement of millions of dollars in tax money.
The arrest was announced on Wednesday by former President Alvaro Uribe, who has seen an increasingly large number of allies disappear behind bars because of their involvement in corruption scandals or ties to far-right paramilitary groups.
Former Agriculture Minister Andres Felipe Arias, a.k.a. “Little Uribe,” was sentenced to 17 years in prison in 2014 after the Supreme Court found him guilty of embezzling more than $20 million in public funds meant for poor farmers.
Instead, the money was funneled to wealthy families and political allies under the watch of Arias and ultimately Uribe, who was president at the time of the embezzlement.
Instead of facing his penalty, Arias fled the country and filed a request for political asylum in the US.
Until Wednesday, members of Uribe’s battered opposition party, the Democratic Center, had falsely claimed that Arias had received this asylum.
The conservative opposition party has consistently claimed Arias and other Uribe allies are victims of political persecution Santos and the Prosecutor General’s Office.
On Twitter, Uribe said that Arias was arrested by US federal marshals due to “pressure by Santos to extradite” his former minister.
The arrest is a major blow for Uribe and his allies, particularly former Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo who is also suspected of hiding in the US while facing corruption charges in Colombia.