A US judge on Monday validated the country’s extradition treaty after it had been challenged by a fugitive former Colombian minister awaiting a 17-year prison sentence for corruption at home.
In a desperate attempt to evade justice at home, former Minister Andres Felipe Arias and his ally, former President Alvaro Uribe, had claimed that Colombia’s 1979 extradition treaty with the US had been declared unconstitutional by the Colombian constitutional court in 1986.
Ironically, when he was president between 2002 and 2012, Uribe extradited 1,200 Colombian citizens to the US. However, these extraditions were “not merited by a treaty,” he said in a letter to the Florida court.
According to Judge John J. O’Sullivan, a US court lacks all jurisdiction to rule over Colombian law, meaning the 1979 treaty between the US and Colombia is valid in the US.
Former Agriculture Minister Andres Felipe Arias was sentenced to 17 years in prison after the Supreme Court convicted him of embezzling approximately $25 million in funds meant for poor farmers.
The money was instead used to appease political and business elites that could support the former minister’s alleged presidential aspirations in the 2010 elections.
The Florida judge ruling does not mean the former minister will immediately be extradited.
Claiming political persecution, Arias is allowed to await the ruling on his political asylum request on bail.