The key witness against the alleged Central American drug trafficker known as “Repollo” says he bribed El Salvador judges to drop drug trafficking charges before turning state witness. The case highlights the corruption that has hindered organized crime prosecutions in that country.
The witness, referred to as “Omega” by La Prensa Grafica and is not otherwise identified, was arrested in El Salvador in 2011 while attempting to sell a kilo of cocaine allegedly belonging to Jorge Ulloa Sibrian, alias “Repollo.” Repollo stands accused of trafficking close to 10 tons of cocaine.
Omega’s case was tried in a San Salvador court, where his charges were lowered from drug trafficking to possession, and later passed to a court in San Juan Opico, where the charges were dropped altogether. In February 2013, an appeals court overturned the dismisal and sentenced Omega to three years in prison on possession charges, the newspaper reports.
After the ruling, Omega began to cooperate with the authorities in the Repollo case and his custodial sentence was changed to community service and a fine.
During his testimony, Omega stated that he had bribed two judges to obtain his release in 2011. He allegedly paid $5,000 to San Salvador Judge Ana Lorena Rodriguez, $10,000 to San Juan Opico Judge David Amael Moran Ascencio, and another $5,000 to the case prosecutor.
The two judges implicated have denied the claims, though the prosecutor Moran — who was linked to a 2010 fraud case — said that he had been offered money.
InSight Crime Analysis
Claims of judicial corruption are not novel in a country where an estimated 80 percent of judges are under investigation for irregular activities. But the Repollo case carries some extra weight because of the size of the target and the very public recriminations that may be forthcoming.
As InSight Crime has noted, Repollo’s network stretched across Central America, and into Colombia and Mexico. It has already ensnared politicians and now judges, and may create more waves in the weeks to come.
As these official connections to organized crime become public, the case could become a litmus test for El Salvador’s judicial system to see if it has the ability (and the stomach) to prosecute high level criminals who can implicate high level government personnel, and whether new criminal investigations will result from these claims.