Authorities in Colombia have arrested a high-level judicial official for attempting to smuggle at least $1 million in alleged drug money, underlining the country’s struggle to root out corruption in the justice system.
Carmen Sofia Carreño, the private secretary to a top judicial authority in Colombia, was arrested on July 30 alongside four other suspects in Bogota’s international airport while carrying $1 million in their suitcases. The Attorney General’s Office has recently established that the money belonged to a drug trafficking network that moved narcotics to Mexico and the United States, according to Noticias RCN.
Although RCN did not identify the drug trafficking organization, authorities suspect Carreño may have been working for a criminal network in the Dominican Republic that was recently dismantled. According to Colombian officials, Carreño had made five trips to the Dominican Republic since March and is believed to have smuggled up to $6 million in drug profits.
Carreño and the other suspects are currently in preventive detention awaiting trial.
Carreño’s boss — who heads the Technical Investigation Unit (CTI), a division within the Attorney General’s Office that handles criminal investigations and overseeing the judicial police — said that Carreño handled “correspondence and calls” for her job.
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Although Carreño has yet to be convicted of any wrongdoing, her case nevertheless speaks to the levels of corruption that remain within Colombia’s justice system. The fact that Carreño was potentially involved in moving millions of dollars in drug money, without anyone noticing until now, speaks volumes about the potential degree to which criminal networks have penetrated the CTI and the Attorney General’s Office.
The CTI scandal is also worrying because this unit is tasked with investigating organized crime groups, and drug traffickers routinely look to corrupt state institutions in order to facilitate their criminal operations. Nearly 600 public officials have been arrested in the past 18 months for their alleged links to the Urabeños, Colombia’s largest drug trafficking organization. This high level of official corruption may help explain why the criminal group’s top boss, Dario Antonio Usuga, alias “Otoniel,” has yet to be captured despite a massive manhunt against him.
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Evidence of corruption within Colombia’s judicial system extends beyond just the recent CTI scandal. In March, the former head of Colombia’s Constitutional Court was found to have been soliciting favors from another judge with alleged ties to the Urabeños. Authorities also broke up the “cartel of judges” in 2013, which allegedly gave lenient sentences to criminals in exchange for bribes.