LatinNews Daily - 22 March 2023

COLOMBIA: Petro’s son under investigation for money laundering

On 21 March, Colombia’s Attorney General Francisco Barbosa confirmed that President Gustavo Petro’s son is being investigated for alleged money laundering.


The confirmation that Nicolás Petro is under investigation for possible money laundering is set to heighten scrutiny over his father’s presidential election campaign, which was already under investigation by the national electoral council (CNE) for alleged financial irregularities. On top of the reputational damage to Petro that will stem from the investigation, the political ramifications in congress could be more significant; the scandal comes at an extremely delicate moment for the government, as it attempts to rally sceptical legislators around its divisive health and labour reform bills.

  • Speaking at a conference on the Colombia justice system, Barbosa confirmed that Nicolás Petro “is under criminal investigation” in relation to “possible money laundering”. Barbosa emphasised that prosecutors are operating in line with the presumption of innocence, and that Nicolás will receive all judicial guarantees.
  • His comments came after President Petro called on 2 March for the attorney general’s office to investigate Nicolás, whose ex-wife Days Vásquez had accused him of receiving Col$600m (US$124,860) for his father’s campaign from the convicted drug trafficker Santander Lopesierra (‘El Hombre Marlboro’). Vásquez claimed that Nicolás kept this money for himself.
  • She also claimed that Nicolás received a donation of Col$400m for the Petro campaign from Alfonso del Cristo Hilsaca (‘El Turco’), a business magnate once investigated on suspicion of having links with paramilitary groups.
  • Questions are now being asked about meetings between Nicolás, who holds no position in government, with a number of cabinet ministers including Alfonso Prada (interior), Cecilia López (agriculture), Irene Vélez (mining and energy) and Carolina Corcho (health). Several of these ministers have denied claims from right-wing opposition legislators that Nicolás was engaging in influence peddling.
  • Vásquez suggested on 17 March that more allegations about Nicolás could soon emerge, tweeting that “nothing’s happened yet, but now it will”. Nicolás’ current partner, Laura Ojeda, replied accusing Vásquez of “blackmail”.

Looking Ahead: Vásquez and Máximo Noriega, a pre-candidate for Petro’s left-wing Pacto Histórico for the governorship of Atlántico department, who allegedly arranged a meeting between Nicolás and Lopesierra, were yesterday issued a summons to testify to the inspector general’s office in relation to the allegations.

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