US authorities on Monday requested a warrant for the arrest of Colombia’s former agriculture minister amid concerns that he wants to flee to evade criminal prosecution in Colombia.
Andres Felipe Arias a.k.a. “Little Uribe” who is facing a 17 year sentence for embezzling funds worth over $20 million meant for poor farmers was arrested in the US in August last year but later was released on bail.
Wilfredo Ferrer, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida released a seven page letter dated February 27, requesting the arrest of Arias citing the high risk of the ex-minister skipping the country.
“Consequently, the Government respectfully requests that the Court order the arrest of Arias Leiva or, in the alternative, that the Court order that his bail conditions be consolidated, ” states the document.
The former minister was sentenced by Colombia’s Supreme Court in 2014 but instead of facing his penalty, Arias fled the country and filed a request for political asylum in the US.
Ferrer’s measure however is not final as it must be authorized by a US judge in order to come into effect. According to El Tiempo the Southern District court of Miami will decide in the coming days whether it will accept the request.
In his letter Ferrer also offered Arias the option of changing his bail conditions, however this would see the bond raised from $100,000 which was paid on November of last year to $1 million.
Under US requirements, this sum would have to be guaranteed by a US citizen or by Arias’s property, of which the former minister has none in the country.
The case has proved to be very complex due to uncertainty over the extradition treaty between Colombia and the US.
Colombia’s opposition party, led by Alvaro Uribe, previously brought into question the validity of the treaty in an attempt to block the extradition of Arias.
In a statement written to a Miami judge in 2016, Uribe said “Colombia does not recognize the treaty as valid or in effect because it was not properly ratified.”
Paradoxically, Uribe during his presidency (2002-2010) extradited 1,200 Colombian citizens to the US, according to himself.
Unfortunately for Arias, the US has its own constitutional laws and presumably did ratify the extradition pact. Therefore according to US law Arias can be extradited with no legal impediments, unless he is granted political asylum.
For now the US justice department will decide whether the treaty is in force or not and following this decision the ex-minister will go to substantive trial to decide if his transfer to Colombia goes ahead.
The Attorney’s office has until March 24 to present a memorandum and Arias has until April 28 to issue a response.