Unknown assassins have murdered another witness in one of the criminal cases against Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe, local media reported on Sunday.
The victim, Carlos Enrique Areiza, admitted in 2016 that he had falsely accused Senator Ivan Cepeda of trying to bribe him into incriminating several major political figures.
Earlier this year, the Supreme Court added Areiza to a list of witnesses who allegedly were used by Uribe and his political allies to discredit Cepeda.
The leftist senator has been investigating Uribe’s alleged involvement in the formation of far-right paramilitary group in the 1990s for years.
The court had ordered increased security for Areiza after he had reported death threats over his role in the witness tampering scandal.
A second witness was moved to a safe house earlier this month after allegedly surviving two assassination attempts.
The assassinated witness told prosecutors in 2016 and earlier this year that he had been tricked into falsely accusing Cepeda in 2015.
Areiza’s signature appeared on a written complaint in which Cepeda was accused of paying him $37,500 to make bogus claims against Uribe, his brother and several key Uribe allies also accused of having sponsored terrorist groups.
Mentioned in the fake letter
- Alvaro Uribe
Colombia’s former president is accused of having formed the Bloque Metro paramilitary group in 1995 and 1996. This group left thousands of victims in the Antioquia province where Uribe is from.
- Santiago Uribe
Uribe’s brother is accused of having been involved in the formation of two paramilitary groups, the 12 Apostles in the early 1990s and Bloque Metro.
- Jose Obdulio Gaviria
The cousin of slain drug lord Pablo Escobar is a senator for Uribe’s hard-right Democratic Center party. His family has allegedly been close to Escobar’s former enforcer army, the Oficina de Envigado, for decades.
- Luis Alfredo Ramos
The former governor of Antioquia and current debate chief of presidential candidate Ivan Duque has been under investigation for years over his alleged ties to paramilitary umbrella organization AUC.
When Areiza was called to court to confirm the claim, he told the court that he did not write the letter and denied that Cepeda had tried to bribe him.
Instead, the demobilized paramilitary fighter said that he had contacted the office of Senator Jose Obdulio Gaviria in 2015 after receiving death threats over his testimony that would confirm ties between former Antioquia governor Luis Alfredo Ramos and the AUC.
A few days later, said Areiza, he received a visit from far-right political activist Jaime Restrepo, who made him promise that he would cease to cooperate with justice in the Ramos case.
Restrepo allegedly also made the former paramilitary fighter sign a number of blank papers.
The false witness case
Using among other things Areiza’s written statement, Uribe sued Cepeda on witness tampering claims.
The court rejected this lawsuit in February and ordered an investigation for witness tampering against Uribe after finding that several witnesses in criminal cases against the former president had been threatened.
The court also ordered an in-depth investigation of the evidence gathered by Cepeda that would prove Uribe’s alleged involvement in the formation of a far-right Bloque Metro paramilitary group.
Uribe, who is currently in the senate, rose to political prominence in the early 1980s as a close friend of Fabio Ochoa, the patriarch of the Ochoa clan that helped form the Medellin Cartel.
The former president has been accused of criminal activity with the cartel and supporting the paramilitary groups that were formed by Escobar associates in the 1990s, many years before Uribe became head of state in 2002.