Nicolás Petro arrested for money laundering and illicit enrichment

Nicolás Petro, son of President Gustavo Petro. Photo: Twitter

In an unprecedented legal decision in recent Colombian history, on Saturday morning, Nicolás Petro was arrested by judicial police in the coastal city of Barranquilla. Nicolás Petro, the son of Colombian President Gustavo Petro, was taken into custody, along with his ex-wife Daysuris del Carmen Vásquez.

Nicolás and Daysuris face charges of money laundering and illicit enrichment. According to a statement by the Attorney General’s Office – Fiscalía General de la Nación – the investigation into Petro’s illicit activities dates back to 2022 and continues until the present day.

In March, “Day” Vásquez (name she goes by) released conversations with Nicolás to the Semana media group, in which the leftist politician from the department of Atlantico talks about receiving donations for his father’s Petro Presidente 2022 campaign from at least two individuals suspected of drug trafficking and trading in contraband.

President Petro responded to his son’s arrest on social media. “As an individual and a father, it pains me to see so much self-destruction and one of my sons going to jail,” stated the country’s first leftist leader. “The Attorney General has my guarantee to proceed in accordance with the law. I wish my son luck and strength.”

Since the explosive revelations from his ex-wife and former political aide, Nicolás Petro has denied receiving illicit funds from Samuel “Santa” Lopesierra, a powerful cartel boss who operates a smuggling network along the Colombian coast. Lopesierra allegedly made a political donation to the Petro campaign in order to run as the official candidate of Pacto Histórico for Governor of La Guajira. Known as the “Marlboro Man” for the large amounts of contraband cigarettes that he funneled into Colombia during the 1980s and 1990s, Lopesierra remains a dangerous warlord.

The Attorney General’s Office confirmed that prosecutors will seek provisional detention of Nicolás and Daysuris once they are make their appearance in a Bogotá court.

In her testimony to Semana, Daysuris says that at least COP$600 million (US$150,000) was received in illicit donations by her former husband and kept in a safe inside their Barranquilla apartment. Recent reports from local sources claim that the amount of illicit money that was laundered and enriched Nicolás Petro amounts to at least COP$2,000 million (US$500,000).

The arrest of Nicolás Petro is the latest scandal to hit the Gustavo Petro administration, and one in which 11 Ministers have resigned during the president’s eleven months in office.

The confession by “Day” that her ex-husband kept large amounts of cash in their apartment, came just months before Petro’s Chief of Staff Laura Sarabia to forced to resign after she alleged that a briefcase with US$4,000 in cash had disappeared from her apartment and went on to accuse her maid of stealing the money. Marelbys Meza was coerced to undergo an illegal polygraph text in a basement near the Presidential Palace.

What is touted as the “15,000” scandal given the sum that is believed to have gone missing from Sarabia’s apartment – COP$15,000 million (US$3,7 million) – Colombia’s Ambassador to Venezuela, Armando Benedetti, was also forced out of office. Benedetti during an angry telephone call with Sarabia told the Chief of Staff that only he knows the source of money that infiltrated the Petro campaign, and that it didn’t come from “exactly legitimate business leaders.”