Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Colombia: ”Para-politics” lawyer caught bribing a witness

There is an old saying that says, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” A prominent Colombian lawyer is learning that lesson the hard way after being faced with an incriminating video.

Attorney Ramón Ballesteros tried to coerce a witness in a trial where his client, ex-Congressman Luis Alberto Gil, stands accused of conspiring with right-wing paramilitaries. Ballesteros was arrested during legal proceedings on Tuesday after a video secretly taped by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration that showed him meeting in New York with former paramilitary David Hernandez. In the video (part of which is shown in the news report below) Ballesteros offered Hernandez $100,000 to retract his accusations against Gil and instead claim that he was being unfairly pressured by a Colombian high court judge.

After being arrested Ballesteros initially insisted that he was merely meeting with Hernandez to plan how he should testify in front of the court but he then confessed to wrongdoing after seeing the video.

Ballesteros faces between four to eight years if convicted of bribery and witness tampering though he could only serve half of the possible sentence since he confessed to his crimes.

For several years Hernandez served as a Colombian army lieutenant while also moonlighting as a high member of a paramilitary bloc. He has been imprisoned in the U.S. since 2008 and is under witness protection testifying against former Colombian legislators and members of the military for their supposed links to the paramilitaries.

The “para-politics” scandal has implicated dozens of former lawmakers including Mario Uribe, the cousin of former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe.

Video Source- YouTube
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, CM&, RCN Radio, Terra

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