BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia on Thursday launched an investigation into the disappearance of assets seized from drug traffickers and criminal groups, which President Gustavo Petro plans to use for social programs benefiting farmers and women.
The government and attorney general’s office decided to investigate after Daniel Rojas, who recently became chief executive of Colombia’s Special Assets Society (SAE), raised the alarm over confiscated assets that were listed in official documents but whose whereabouts were unclear.
“That suggests that a chain of people who have led (the SAE) should now be investigated, I think,” Petro told journalists alongside Rojas and Attorney General Francisco Barbosa.
Colombia has seized assets worth 25.7 trillion pesos ($5.6 billion). Authorities will establish a technical panel to locate 19,587 assets seized from drug traffickers including large farms, houses, luxury cars, gold, aircraft, boats and cash.
Authorities did not give a value for the missing assets.
The government plans to sell seized assets to compensate the victims of Colombia’s internal armed conflict, which has run for almost six decades and has involved drug traffickers, leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries. Millions of people have been displaced from their homes.
Petro said that the affair could turn out to be “one of the most painful events from the point of view of transparency, the public purse and national heritage.”
(Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra and Oliver Griffin; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)