BOGOTA – Colombia’s Attorney General said Saturday that prosecutors had recovered police recordings in which a murdered cattle rancher mentions President Ivan Duque and Senator Alvaro Uribe’s alleged involvement in a vote-buying scheme.
Francisco Barbosa said he hadn’t known about the recordings of Jose “Ñeñe” Guillermo Hernandez – who was killed in May in Brazil – mentioning Duque and Uribe until they were given to him following a judicial inspection.
“Neither the director of the National Police nor the director of the Dijin (Criminal Investigation Directorate of the National Police) ever informed me that they had these audios,” Barbosa said at a press conference. “It was the Prosecutor’s Office, which after conducting a judicial inspection of the Technical Chamber of Dijin Communications, managed to recover the recordings.”
He said the inspection was carried out from 8 pm on Thursday until 4 am on Friday.
The president and former president Uribe are at the center of a political scandal after conversations were revealed about the rancher, thought to have been the key figure in the alleged purchase of votes during the election campaign that Duque won. The order allegedly came from Uribe.
The case, colloquially called “Ñeñepolitica,” came to light after part of the audios were transcribed by journalist Gonzalo Guillen and published in La Nueva Prensa news outlet.
Guillen said prosecutors’ investigation over a young man’s murder revealed phone conversations which said Hernandez is “the axis of a vote-buying operation in [Colombia’s] north coast for [Duque] and [Uribe],” over which the supreme court opened a preliminary investigation.
Prosecutors had been investigating Hernandez, who since 2015 was a suspect for the August 2011 murder in Barranquilla of Oscar Eduardo Rodriguez, son of moneylender Carlos Rodriguez, with whom “Ñeñe” had problems over a debt of 1 billion pesos (about $ 350,000).
Barbosa said the audios had always been at the hands of the police and were never referred to the attorney general’s office.
However, Senator Jorge Robledo from the leftist Polo Democratico Alternativo (PDA) party, questioned Friday the role of the prosecutor’s office in the case and said it had been the obligation of Nestor Humberto Martinez, the previous attorney general, to open an investigation since 2018.
“This was in possession of the prosecutor’s office since June 2018 and was without a doubt hidden for two years by the [office] and [Humberto Martinez] himself, because it is difficult to believe that such a serious matter had not gone through him,” Robledo told EFE.