Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe told the Supreme Court he was “worried and distressed” after contradicting evidence of witness manipulation, journalist Daniel Coronell reported Sunday.
The journalist apparently obtained transcripts from the court’s October 8 hearing and revealed fragments in which Uribe contradicted evidence of the alleged manipulation of witnesses who tie his family to death squads.
Uribe reportedly told magistrate Cesar Reyes about his growing concern after the judge presiding over the case formalized the fraud and bribery charges on the basis of evidence obtained before and during the investigation.
Listening to you now that you are fulfilling your duty to notify me of all these allegations, I am even more worried and distressed, your honor.
Former President Alvaro Uribe via Semana
If accurate, Reyes’ reported questions about the alleged witness manipulation would give the former president and his defense attorneys plenty to worry about.
The fraud and bribery charges filed by the court alone could result in a prison sentence of between six and eight years in prison.
What’s worse, the testimonies of the witnesses Uribe allegedly tried to bribe add to evidence of alleged crimes that effectively could put Uribe away for life.
Juan Guillermo Monsalve
Juan Guillermo Monsalve is the son of the former caretaker of the Uribe family’s Guacharacas estate and a former member of the Bloque Metro death squad that left 4,000 victims in the Antioquia province.
Monsalve confirmed claims made by former paramilitary commander “Alberto Guerrero” that the former president and his brother Santiago helped found the Bloque Metro when Uribe was governor of Antioquia.
Since Monsalve confirmed these claims in 2011, the former paramilitary has survived two assassination attempts and his wife was forced to flee the country after intimidation attempts.
Uribe’s fixer, mafia lawyer Diego Cadena, was filmed offering judicial benefits to Monsalve in 2018 when the Supreme Court was already investigating Uribe on fraud and bribery charges.
The former president was wiretapped when he told Cadena to offer legal support and seek judicial benefits in an apparent attempt to convince the witness to retract his claim.
Diego Cadena: I have something in mind but I want to consult with you, and it is an issue that authorizes me to be able to help this gentleman. It is a motion to reconsider before the court because the gentleman has a sentence of 44 years for kidnapping. What I can do is a mo…
Alvaro Uribe: “Ah yes, no, a legal remedy must be pursued.”
Wiretap transcript via Noticias Uno
Despite the evidence, Uribe denied authorizing Cadena to provide legal services to Monsalve.
Magistrate: Was attorney Diego Cadena authorized or not by you to make any offer to Mr. Juan Guillermo Monsalve related to seeking a retraction?
Uribe: Never, neither in that case, nor in the others, nor in those that have become public recently.
Magistrate: Did or did you not know that attorney Cadena offered Juan Guillermo Monsalve some kind of professional legal assistance in the event that he ended up additionally involved in a crime of false testimony. Did Cadena say anything to you?
No, he didn’t tell me about that part. The only thing there is is what is in the wiretap; security and that he felt empowered to study, study, not offer, but study the possibility of an action of revision… My obsession has been the truth, not to alter testimonies.
Court transcript via Semana
In another fragment released by Coronell, Reyes asked about Uribe’s knowledge of the admitted bribery of former paramilitary fighter Carlos Enrique Velez, a.k.a. “Victor,” who admitted to having received bribes from Cadena.
Victor was presumably supposed to discredit “Alberto Guerrero,” a former paramilitary chief who also testified that the Uribe family formed the Bloque Metro.
Victor flipped, however, admitted he was bribed and surrendered evidence of received payments.
Magistrate: Let me interrupt you. The question is whether Diego Cadena told you, or you learned, whether Diego Cadena offered legal and professional assistance to the witness.
Uribe: No, your honor.
Court transcript via Semana
Leaked wiretap transcripts indicate Uribe lied.
President, to bring you up to date. When I initially interviewed Mr. Carlos Enrique Vélez, he told me I could help him with legal proceedings because they are poor. I put one of the lawyers from the office on it, so he talks to him frequently.
During the lunch break, one of Uribe’s defense attorneys apparently informed the former president he had just lied to the court and Uribe asked the magistrate to rectify his initial answer.
Mr. Juan Felipe Amaya tells me that in a call between me and Diego Cadena he said that there was a lawyer in his office, he told me that he had helped Carlos Enrique Velez with some paperwork. I want to clarify this because Diego Cadena never told me that he had received a power of attorney from Carlos Enrique Velez, but I see he did tell me in a phone call that a lawyer, I don’t know if it was [Cadena’s assistant] Juan Jose Salazar or someone else who was helping Carlos Enrique Velez in some proceedings.
In short, Uribe admitted that, apart from paying the witness, the former president knew his fixer provided free legal assistance to Victor.
Uribe digging his own grave?
If Coronell’s source is accurate — and the renowned journalist’s sources tend to be accurate — Uribe has every reason to be worried and distressed.
The former president has never even tried to deny his family’s ties to the now-defunct Medellin Cartel, but has done everything in his power to prevent being called to trial over his alleged paramilitary ties, and for a good reason.
Uribe may be a talented politician, but his legal strategies have been a series of disasters.
The former president filed slander charges against Guerrero and lost, adding evidence to the pending case over his alleged paramilitary ties.
Uribe then filed witness tampering charges against opposition Senator Ivan Cepeda in 2014. While the court was investigating Cepeda, it found evidence of the former president’s alleged bribery practices.
At least one of the witnesses called by the former president’s defense ended up confirming being bribed.
Uribe indicated last month he might retire from politics at the end of his term as senator in 2022, but considering the way things appear to be going in court, the former president may not make it that far.