LA PAZ – Prosecutors who on Tuesday raided the headquarters of Bolivia’s Lamia Airlines in the city of Santa Cruz arrested the firm’s general director, Gustavo Vargas Gamboa, after confiscating documents and computers in keeping with their investigation to determine the firm’s responsibility in the air crash that took 71 lives in Colombia.
Authorities arrested Vargas at the office and transported him to the district attorney’s office in the city, EFE learned.
Vargas is a former member of the Bolivian air force who was the pilot for several of the country’s presidents between 2001-2007, including current President Evo Morales.
Also arrested in the raid were one of the company’s secretaries and a technical staffer.
Vargas is the father of Gustavo Vargas Villegas, one of the top officials within the Civil Aeronautics General Directorate until he was suspended last week in the investigation into the airline’s operations.
Prosecutors ordered the arrests after spending several hours reviewing the firm’s documents and computers, which had been confiscated and hauled off in two trucks to the DA’s office.
The arrests came on the eve of a meeting in Santa Cruz among Bolivian, Brazilian and Colombian prosecutors investigating the crash, in which almost the entire Chapecoense soccer team from Brazil were killed when their charted Lamia plane crashed near Medellin, Colombia, on Nov. 28.
Bolivian Attorney General Ramiro Guerrero said Tuesday that the crash investigation in his country “certainly could get to murder charges” against anyone found to have responsibility for the tragedy.
A few hours before the arrests, Bolivian prosecutors also raided the offices of the AASANA air navigation and airports administration at Santa Cruz’s Viru Viru international airport.
Specifically, authorities searched the office of Celia Castedo, who had questioned the Lamia aircraft’s flight plan prior to the accident mainly because she noticed that the scheduled flight time was the same as the amount of fuel the plane was to carry, apparently leaving no cushion for emergencies.
The AG’s Office on Friday denounced Castedo for not reporting her observations regarding the flight plan in a more timely way.
On Monday, Castedo had traveled to the Brazilian city of Corumba and spent all day speaking with her attorney and officials with that country’s General Prosecutors Office, after which they took her to request asylum from the Brazilian Federal Police.
Bolivian Interior Minister Carlos Romero said Tuesday that Castedo had left the country illegally and her presence in Brazil was also illegal, being “a clear act designed to elude justice.”