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LATIN AMERICA | 31-07-2023 12:43

Colombian president's son arrested on money-laundering charges

Nicolas Petro was arrested on July 29th, 2023, on charges of money laundering and illicit enrichment in a scandal linked to his father's election campaign, officials said.

Colombian President Gustavo Petro's son Nicolas was arrested Saturday on charges of money laundering and illicit enrichment in a scandal linked to Petro's election campaign, officials said.

Colombia's first leftist president wrote on Twitter, which is being rebranded as X, that police arrested his son and the son's ex-wife Daysuris Vasquez.

Security agents arrested Nicolas Petro, 37, and Vasquez in the coastal city of Barranquilla and brought them to the capital Bogota, where prosecutors said they were secured under heavy guard at a bunker awaiting a court hearing.

In March, in an interview with the magazine Semana, Vasquez alleged that Nicolas Petro received large amounts of money from drug traffickers and smugglers in 2022 for his father's ultimately successful presidential campaign.

But instead, the younger Petro used it to live in luxury in Barranquilla, Vasquez alleged.

Petro wrote: "I wish my son luck and strength. May these events build his character and may he reflect on his mistakes."

"As a person and father it hurts to see so much self-destruction," he added, and vowed to stay out of the legal proceedings involving his son.

Prosecutors confirmed the arrest of Nicolas Petro on charges of money laundering and illicit enrichment. Vasquez was also charged with money laundering.

Since the scandal broke, President Petro has denied receiving money from the country's powerful cocaine lords. He himself asked that his son be investigated.

Nicolas Petro was born in the 1980s while his father was in the Marxist M-19 urban guerilla insurgency, one of several armed groups fighting the lock on power by traditional political parties.

The father recently said he was absent from his son's life due to the civil war, unlike with his five younger children raised after a peace accord with the M-19 movement was signed in 1990. 

Nicolas Petro was a lawmaker for his father's party in the northern Atlantic department. News outlets published bank records of his showing he had far more assets than his salary from congress justified.

In that department and elsewhere along Colombia's Caribbean coast, the younger Petro became a key player in his father's drive to become president.

People in the country's Caribbean region have historically been wary of leftist politicians, but in 2022 they supported Petro as the country elected him as its first leftist president after decades of rule by conservatives. 

Vasquez said in the March interview with Semana that her former husband received the equivalent of $124,000 from a former drug trafficker named Samuel Santander Lopesierra.

She said President Petro was not aware of the money Nicolas Petro got from the convicted trafficker.

Santander Lopesierra served 18 years in prison in the United States for drug trafficking.

In another scandal, involving illegal wiretaps, former Colombian ambassador to Venezuela Armando Benedetti threatened to reveal what he said were irregularities in the Petro campaign in the Caribbean region.

In leaked conversations with the president's ex-chief of staff, Benedetti suggested Nicolas Petro was involved in these irregularities.
 

– TIMES/AFP

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