The Colombian Prosecutor’s Office has announced that it will finally bring Nicolas Petro, the son of the country’s president, to trial on charges of money laundering and illicit enrichment. The arrest of Gustavo Petro’s eldest son at the end of July uncovered a scandal as Nicolas Petro, in an attempt to cooperate with justice, announced that he had evidence demonstrating the diversion of money from two known drug traffickers to his father’s presidential campaign in 2022.
Although the president’s son and a deputy in the department of Atlantico denied that his father or the party’s campaign manager had knowledge of these illicit funds, his cooperation strategy suggested that the scandal would inevitably implicate the current president.
Nicolas Petro Alleges Pressure
The son of the Colombian president, who was released after testifying before the Prosecutor’s Office alongside his ex-partner, Day Vasquez, who is also accused of illicit enrichment, has now announced that he will not cooperate with the prosecution. He accuses the organization of pressuring him to involve his father in the corruption case.
In a social media post, Nicolas Petro stated, “Today begins the fight of my life. I knew that the Prosecutor’s Office under Barbosa (the country’s attorney general) was not to be trusted, and today they proved it. They have pressured me to the limit with the sole intention of turning me into a weapon against my father.”
The president’s son concluded the post with a quote his father made when the case was exposed a month and a half ago: “I decided to rise and not kneel before the executioner.”
Prosecutor’s Office Files Charges
In light of this new non-cooperation situation, the Prosecutor’s Office has already filed charges. As planned, Nicolas Petro will face trial for money laundering and illicit enrichment. However, Petro will go to trial without the mitigating factor of cooperation, which means he could be sentenced to several years in prison if found guilty of the charges.
In a statement released on September 25th, the Prosecutor’s Office stated that “the judge of the Barranquilla service center will be automatically assigned to preside over the trial of Mr. Nicolas Petro Burgos. It is before this judge that the Prosecutor’s Office will present all the evidence it possesses in the respective trial.”
It’s worth noting that Nicolas Petro admitted, after being arrested two months ago, to having received approximately 1 billion Colombian pesos from former drug trafficker Samuel Santander Lopesierra and Alfonso Hilsaca, a politician with paramilitary ties.
According to the Prosecutor’s Office, and as Nicolas Petro acknowledged in August, after keeping a portion of that money, the rest was diverted to his father’s presidential campaign without the president’s knowledge. At that time, there seemed to be an agreement for the accused to cooperate with justice, shedding light on the case. Today, that agreement has been denied by the president’s son, who will face the charges without a deal with the prosecuting authority, which could result in a prison sentence of up to 15 years.
Some media outlets in Colombia have tried to link a visit that President Petro made to his son’s home in Puerto Colombia, the coastal area near Barranquilla, to his son’s change in attitude toward the accusations. The meeting took place on August 21st at the son’s residence in a residential complex in the port area of Atlántico department.
The accused had committed to providing evidence to the justice system that would clarify what happened, something that as of today has not occurred, and based on Nicolás Petro’s statements, it does not seem likely to happen.
It is also true that on September 1st, it was announced that the accused was changing his defense attorney. David Teleki’s team took “a step aside,” leaving the defense of the president’s son in the hands of Stewing Arteaga, who responded to the Prosecutor’s Office’s announcement by stating that they are prepared to face the trial.