The son of Colombia’s president says his father’s election campaign received money of dubious origin

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — The son of Colombian President Gustavo Petro acknowledged Thursday that his father’s 2022 election campaign received money of dubious origin, according prosecutors investigating the son for alleged illicit enrichment and money laundering.

Nicolás Petro, who was a legislator representing a northern coastal region, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the probe after being charged Tuesday.

Prosecutor Mario Andrés Burgos, who heads the investigation, said the younger Petro has revealed that unjustified increases detected in his assets came from two individuals being questioned by Colombian authorities. The money went partly into his own accounts and partly into the campaign that made his father Colombia’s first elected leftist president, the prosecutor said.

On Tuesday, when he was charged, prosecutors said the younger Petro took thousands of dollars from drug traffickers and used it to buy luxurious homes and expensive cars. Nicolás Petro, 36, pleaded innocent to the charges, but agreed to cooperate with authorities.

The case has come at a time when Colombia’s president is losing popularity and has been exposed to attacks by opposition parties, which have become increasingly reluctant to cooperate with his legislative agenda.

The investigation stems from a shocking declaration made by the son’s former wife, Daysuris Vásquez, to local news magazine Semana in March.

Vasquez said she was present at meetings where Nicolás Petro arranged a 600 million peso ($150,000) donation from a politician who was once convicted in Washington of drug trafficking and who wanted to contribute to Gustavo Petro’s 2022 presidential campaign.

She accused her ex-husband of pocketing the money and said that the father’s presidential campaign had no knowledge of the donation.

On Thursday, prosecutors said the “resources” in the case were around $270,000 that was delivered by Samuel Santander Lopesierra and Gabriel Hilsaca to Nicolás Petro.

Lopesierra was convicted and extradited to the United States, where he was sentenced for drug trafficking. Hilsaca is the son of Alfonso Hilsaca, who is currently being prosecuted on charges of murder and criminal conspiracy in Colombia.

Burgos said the president’s son has promised to deliver audio recordings and documentary evidence that would corroborate that part of the money he received was used to finance his father’s electoral campaign without being duly reported to authorities..

Prosecutors also accused Vásquez of co-operating in the money laundering scheme and said she helped her husband hide thousands of dollars in cash in suitcases that the couple kept at their home.

The couple, who no longer live together, were arrested Saturday and have been held at the headquarters of the Chief Prosecutor’s Office in Bogota.

Thursday’s hearing was held to hear arguments on whether Nicolás Petro’s detention should be switched to house arrest.

The president has said he would not interfere with the investigation, and wrote a message on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, in which he said he hoped his son would “reflect on his mistakes.”

Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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