A Colombian ex-Agriculture minister was found guilty of embezzlement by the Supreme Court on Thursday July 3
After a four year legal battle, the Supreme Court was finally able to condemn Andrés Felipe Arias for diverting around $46 billion COP ($25million USD) worth of public funds which should have gone to the country’s poor subsistence farmers and also for entering into contracts without complying with legal requirements.
After being charged in absentia, he now faces a possible prison sentence of between eight and 33 years – with a five year minimum.
Arias was sentenced in July 2011 after the news magazine ‘Cambio’ reported that subsidies intended for struggling farmers were instead making their way into the pockets of wealthy landowning elites. However. he was allowed to go free after it was determined that there was not enough evidence to convict him personally.
Included in the parties who allegedly received the embezzled public funds were a former Miss Colombia beauty queen and alleged paramilitary members.
At the hearing on July 3, Arias’ lawyer confirmed that he was not in the country for the decision, and the decision of whether he would come back or not to face the consequences was “his, and his only.”
The Supreme Court’s verdict stated that the former agriculture minister was very close to former president Alvaro Uribe, and he “favoured specific sectors of agricultural production,” Colombian media reported.
In 2011, Colombia’s Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez also banned Arias from holding public office for 16 years.
Arias’ latest sentence will be made public in the coming weeks, although his whereabouts are unknown and it is unclear whether he will return to Colombia to serve it.