| 25 July 2024, Thursday |

Judge grants conditional freedom for son of Colombian president

A judge granted Nicolas Petro, the eldest son of Colombian President Gustavo Petro, provisional freedom late Friday while he faces money laundering and unlawful enrichment accusations related to campaign finance for his father.

Petro, 37, was detained last weekend in Barranquilla along with his ex-wife, Daysuris del Carmen Vasquez, on similar charges.

Prosecutor Mario Burgos told a Thursday hearing that Petro, who resigned as a lawmaker in Atlantico province, had said illegal money entered his father’s 2022 election campaign, that it exceeded legal limits and was not fully reported to electoral authorities.

The president has denied awareness of any illegal activities and said he will continue with his administration’s policy plans, but the scandal could hamper his pursuit of peace or surrender deals with armed groups and an ambitious reform agenda, which was already facing challenges amid the breakdown of the government’s prior congressional coalition.

Judge Omar Leonardo Beltran ordered Nicolas Petro not to leave his city of residence, Barranquilla, but rejected a request from the attorney general’s office to impose house arrest, which had been supported by the defense.

“The request for the imposition of a security measure is also accepted … but for non-custodial measures,” the judge ruled.

According to the charges, Nicolas Petro received money from accused drug traffickers in exchange for including them in the president’s peace plans.

He has pleaded not guilty but said he would collaborate with prosecutors, who accuse him of buying properties valued at $394,000 with money that did not come from his salary.

Collaboration may lead to a reduction in Petro’s possible sentence, which could be between 12 and 20 years in prison if he is convicted.

Beltran also decided that Vasquez would remain free while facing charges of money laundering and violation of personal data. Testimony in the proceedings depicted a web of passion, betrayal and corruption in which Petro was unfaithful to Vasquez during their marriage with her best friend, who is now expecting his child.

The president said he was personally pained to hear allegations of campaign irregularities.

“No one can be above the law and justice must be applied in an impartial way, with due process and all constitutional guarantees,” he said in a statement posted on X, the platform previously known as Twitter.

His government will continue its agenda, added Petro, who was part of the M-19 guerrilla group and came to prominence as a lawmaker noted for impassioned speeches on corruption by right-wing paramilitary groups and their political allies.

“Nothing and no one can stop the fight of an entire life against all forms of corruption, and the government will continue, without distraction, its work and commitment for a better Colombia,” the president said.

  • Reuters