BOGOTA – Twelve active members of Colombia’s military were arrested on Wednesday for alleged corruption, part of a purge within the army that began the day before when a general was forced into retirement.
“In compliance with our policy of zero tolerance with corruption and thanks to counter-intelligence work, 12 active members of the institution suspected of being complicit in irregular activities were placed at the disposition of authorities,” the army said in a statement.
The suspects were accused of falsifying documents to achieve promotions and failure to comply with legal requirements for transfers and promotions, it added.
All of those arrested held the rank of sergeant or corporal.
Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office, which assisted with the operations, added that they took place in the southern cities of Puerto Asis and Neiva and the central cities of Nilo and Bogota.
As part of the investigation, authorities established that transfers and promotions were negotiated among military officials at costs ranging from between 4-5 million pesos ($1,242 and $1,553).
“Presumably, these NCOs with false documentation were placed in military criminal justice, integral action, artillery, communications, special forces, aviation and human talent, as well as other specialties,” the AG’s office said.
The NCOs are to appear before a judge in Bogota on Wednesday on charges of procedural fraud, abusive access to a computer system, influence peddling by public servants, breach of public duties, falsification of private documents and criminal conspiracy.
The arrests occurred a day after the Colombian government ordered the retirement of one army general, Jorge Romero Pinzon, implicated in a corruption case and said the situation of two others caught up in the same scandal would be resolved via administrative or disciplinary proceedings.
Romero Pinzon is under investigation by the AG’s office for alleged budget mismanagement involving some 1 billion pesos ($310,000) in funds.
The case came to light due to an article published on July 7 by Colombian weekly Semana.
That publication reported that Romero Pinzon – while serving as commander of the army’s Fourth Brigade and apparently with the complicity of “other senior officials in his charge” – allegedly diverted funds that were to be used for the maintenance of army vehicles, fuel purchases and other expenses.