Prosecutor, defense request house arrest for son of Colombian president

  • World
  • Saturday, 05 Aug 2023

Defendant and son of Colombian president Gustavo Petro, Nicolas Petro attends a hearing in Bogota, Colombia August 3, 2023 in this screengrab taken from a handout video. Colombian Prosecutor's Office/Handout via REUTERS

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Both the prosecution and the defense in a money laundering and illicit enrichment case against Nicolas Petro, the eldest son of Colombian President Gustavo Petro, on Friday requested house arrest for the younger Petro.

Petro, 37, was arrested last weekend in the city of Barranquilla alongside his ex-wife, Daysuris del Carmen Vasquez, who is being held on similar charges.

Prosecutor Mario Burgos told a Thursday hearing Petro, who resigned as a lawmaker in Atlantico province, had said that illegal money entered his father's 2022 election campaign, that it exceeded legal limits and was not fully reported to electoral authorities.

The president has denied awareness of any illegal activities and said he will continue with his administration's policy plans, but the scandal could hamper his pursuit of peace or surrender deals with armed groups and an ambitious reform agenda, which was already facing challenges amid the breakdown of the government's prior congressional coalition.

Both prosecutor Burgos and Petro's defense attorney David Teleki supported a house arrest measure in a morning hearing, with Teleki citing the impeding birth of Petro's child with his current partner.

The judge is expected to rule after 6 p.m. local time (2300 GMT).

According to the charges, Nicolas Petro received money from accused drug traffickers in exchange for including them in the president's peace plans.

He has pleaded not guilty, but said he would collaborate with prosecutors, who accuse him of buying properties valued at about $394,000 with money that did not come from his salary.

Collaboration may lead to a reduction in Petro's possible sentence, which could be between 12 and 20 years in prison if he is convicted.

The president said he was personally pained to hear allegations of campaign irregularities in a statement posted on X, the platform previously known as Twitter, on Friday.

"No one can be above the law and justice must be applied in an impartial way, with due process and all constitutional guarantees," the statement added.

His government will continue its agenda, added Petro, who was part of the M-19 guerrilla group and came to prominence as a lawmaker for impassioned speeches on corruption by right-wing paramilitary groups and their political allies.

"Nothing and no one can stop the fight of an entire life against all forms of corruption and the government will continue, without distraction, its work and commitment for a better Colombia," the president added.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta, additional reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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