It’s been a tough week for the Gnecco family. Following the arrest of the matriarch, Cielo Gnecco, it was revealed yesterday that the Prosecutor’s Office has formally accused her son, the former governor of Cesar department, Luis Alberto Monsalvo Gnecco, of embezzlement of public funds and corruption involving the School Feeding Program (PAE) fund.
Monsalvo Gnecco had already been forcibly removed from his position in 2021 due to corruption suspicions. According to the accusing authority, the former governor is charged with the crimes of “contract without compliance with legal requirements and misappropriation,” which occurred while he held the highest political authority in the region.
In the Prosecutor’s statement, Luis Alberto Monsalvo is accused of alleged corruption during his first term as governor. “The evidence suggests that, while serving as the head of the department during the 2012-2015 term, he directed a contractual process to benefit a specific consortium and omitted to supervise all phases of contracting as required by law,” the public ministry explains.
Among the falsehoods, the Prosecutor’s Office detected deficiencies in pre-contract execution studies that were awarded to entrepreneurs close to the Gnecco family. The amount involved is 2.9 billion Colombian pesos, earmarked for the PAE.
According to the accusation, the former governor directed the contracting process to benefit a specific consortium close to the family. This contract dates back to 2015 and was aimed at ensuring the nutrition of underage students in the rural and urban areas of the department.
“Another irregularity that the Prosecutor’s Office was able to detect was the possible lack of monitoring and control of the contract, which violated the rights of public school students in the department,” the accusing authority alleges.
With this formal indictment, it will be the Supreme Court of Justice that will determine the date for the criminal trial against Monsalvo Gnecco.
History of Wrongdoing
Luis Alberto Monsalvo Gnecco has a history of legal problems, just like his entire family. Suspicions of involvement in paramilitary practices and allegations of electoral and financial corruption have always hovered over the Gnecco clan. The family has faced various convictions in these cases.
The latest episodes occurred this week with the arrest of the family’s matriarch, Cielo Gnecco, accused of inciting the murders of two departmental contractors who refused to pay a commission in exchange for contract concessions, which were managed by her son.
Today, her son, former governor Luis Monsalvo, follows suit, having previously been suspended from his duties twice. The first suspension occurred in July 2020 when the justice system exposed electoral crimes related to vote-buying in the 2011 elections, which facilitated his first term as governor (2012-2015). Monsalvo was sentenced to 5 years in prison. However, in a surprising decision, the Supreme Court ultimately acquitted him.
Nevertheless, suspicions and accusations continued, all related to the misappropriation of public funds in contract awards. For example, in 2019, he was linked to misconduct in the Mayor’s Office of Valledupar, the department’s capital, due to irregularities in contracts worth 2 billion Colombian pesos.
Scandal during the 2020 Lockdown
Similarly, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Monsalvo Gnecco was charged with irregularities in 23 contracts through which the Cesar Governor’s Office acquired 73,500 market kits at a cost of over 9 billion Colombian pesos. These kits were intended for particularly vulnerable people during the toughest moments of the 2020 lockdown.
“The then-governor delegated the secretary of the department to sign the 23 contracts. The investigation found that this was done directly, apparently disregarding various existing legal provisions and warnings issued by the control agencies to ensure the principles of transparency, objective selection, and economy in the contracting processes,” stated the Prosecutor’s Office.