Colombian security chief indicted in US
The former police general who served as Colombian ex-President Alvaro Uribe’s security chief from 2002 to 2006 betrayed international counternarcotics operations for almost a decade while on the payroll of drug traffickers and rightwing paramilitaries, according to a newly unsealed U.S. indictment.
Ex-Gen. Mauricio Santoyo Velasco is charged with conspiracy to export cocaine to the United States in collusion with far-right paramilitary bosses and with a collection agency of sorts run by drug traffickers that hired assassins and kidnapped and extorted, chiefly to collect on drug debts. His alleged crimes were committed from about 2000 to November 2008, according to the indictment, which describes them as a wholesale betrayal of counterdrug operations by Colombian, U.S. and British law enforcement.
Santoyo’s whereabouts could not immediately be determined. The head of international affairs in Colombia’s chief prosecutor’s office, Francisco Echeverry, said no arrest warrant has been issued for Santoyo.
Uribe told The Associated Press via a text message on Monday that he would have no further comment beyond a tweet a day earlier saying he hoped “Santoyo and the police institution would explain the case.”
Uribe, who left office in 2010, was immensely popular for security gains during his government, but has been plagued by corruption and domestic spying scandals involving close associates. The May 24 indictment from an eastern Virginia grand jury alleges that Santoyo received “substantial bribes” in exchange for:
—Tipping off traffickers to ongoing drug-trafficking investigations as well as wiretaps targeting them.
—Promising to “facilitate the transfer of corrupt police officers, who would further assist these drug-traffickers in their business.”
—Notifying traffickers of upcoming arrest operations, including joint Colombian investigations with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
—Conducting unauthorized wiretaps on behalf of the traffickers.
—Provide intelligence collected by Colombian law enforcement to drug traffickers, including on people later targeted to be murdered by the traffickers.
A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride declined to comment on the indictment Monday. Santoyo was chief of anti-kidnapping police in Medellin from 1996-1999, coinciding with Uribe’s governorship of Antioquia, of which it is state capital. From 2000-2002, he commanded an elite anti-terrorism task force. In 2008-2009 he was police attache to Italy.
Santoyo’s alleged betrayal coincided with a huge influx of U.S. aid under Plan Colombia to fight drug traffickers and leftist rebels and included Uribe’s decision to make peace with the far-right paramilitaries represented by the United Self-Defense Forces, known by its Spanish initials AUC.
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