HomeNewsBriefEx-Minister’s Arrest Shows Florida’s Role as Haven for Corrupt Elites
BRIEF

Ex-Minister’s Arrest Shows Florida’s Role as Haven for Corrupt Elites

COLOMBIA / 25 AUG 2016 BY MIKE LASUSA EN

Authorities in Florida have arrested a former Colombian Agriculture minister who fled there after being convicted in a multi-million dollar corruption case, highlighting a pattern of law-breaking Latin American elites seeking refuge from justice in the Sunshine State.

Andrés Felipe Arias, who served as Colombia's Agriculture minister from 2005 to 2009 under former President Álvaro Uribe, was arrested on August 24 at his home in the South Florida town of Weston, the Miami Herald reported.

Arias fled to the United States in June 2014 after finding out that he had been convicted in a corruption scheme involving the mismanagement of state funds for an agricultural subsidy program. He faced a sentence of more than 17 years in prison.

According to the Miami Herald, "Arias was able to flee to South Florida because the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá renewed his tourist visa while he was on trial…despite a 2004 presidential proclamation barring foreign officials suspected of corruption from entering the country."

Arias applied for asylum soon after entering the United States, claiming his trial and conviction in Colombia constituted political persecution.

An investigation by Semana magazine later reported that US authorities granted Arias' request "in effect" on September 5, 2014. Legal experts consulted by the news outlet said that the rapid turnaround on his asylum application suggested that he had been planning such a move for some time.

The Colombian government formally requested Arias' extradition from the United States in November 2014. It remains unclear why the US government waited nearly two years before acting on the extradition request, but the Miami Herald suggests the State Department "may have been concerned about the length of the 17-year sentence" Arias faced.

InSight Crime Analysis

Arias is hardly the first prominent fugitive to seek safe haven from a Latin American justice system in South Florida. For instance, former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli -- who stands accused of myriad misdeeds stemming from his time in office, including corruption and illegal surveillance -- has reportedly been hiding out in a lavish Miami apartment as authorities in the Central American nation continue to work on finalizing a formal request for his extradition.

The shadowy former intelligence operations chief of Argentina's spy service, Antonio Horacio "Jaime" Stiuso, also allegedly sought shelter in the Miami area following the suspicious January 2015 death of the Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman. The Argentine government under former President Cristina Kirchner even accused the United States of harboring Stiuso in order to help him avoid testifying about Nisman's death. However, several months after the international police agency INTERPOL issued a "blue notice" for Stiuso, the former spymaster returned to Argentina and testified in the case.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime

As the Miami New Times reported in 2010, there is a decades-long history of Latin American elites seeking refuge from justice in South Florida, likely due to the geographic and cultural proximity of the two regions. But this is not always due to a lack of vigilance or effort on the part of US authorities.

For example, after a legal battle lasting more than 16 years, in April 2015 the United States deported former El Salvador Defense Minister Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, who was accused of participating in a number of atrocities during the civil war that wracked the country during the 1980s. He had been living in Florida since 1989. According to the New York Times, Vides Casanova was "the highest-ranking foreign official to be deported under laws enacted in 2004 to prevent human rights violators from seeking haven" in the United States.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BRAZIL / 12 AUG 2011

Less than a week after approving a border security plan with Colombia, Brazil signaled that it would like…

COLOMBIA / 27 SEP 2012

In a joint operation, US and Colombian security forces seized a ton of cocaine from a fishing vessel manned by…

CARTEL DE LOS SOLES / 9 NOV 2016

The recent arrest in Honduras of a lesser-known suspect in Venezuela's “narco nephews” case may bring to light additional information…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Unraveling the Web of Elites Connected to Organized Crime

27 JUL 2021

InSight Crime published Elites and Organized Crime in Nicaragua, a deep dive into the relationships between criminal actors and elites in that Central American nation.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime’s Greater Focus on US-Mexico Border

20 JUL 2021

InSight Crime has decided to turn many of its investigative resources towards understanding and chronicling the criminal dynamics along the US-Mexico border.

THE ORGANIZATION

Key Arrests and Police Budget Increases Due to InSight Crime Investigations

8 JUL 2021

With Memo Fantasma’s arrest, InSight Crime has proven that our investigations can and will uncover major criminal threats in the Americas.

THE ORGANIZATION

Organized Crime’s Influence on Gender-Based Violence

30 JUN 2021

InSight Crime investigator Laura N. Ávila spoke on organized crime and gender-based violence at the launch of a research project by the United Nations Development Programme.

THE ORGANIZATION

Conversation with Paraguay Judicial Operators on PCC

24 JUN 2021

InSight Crime Co-director Steven Dudley formed part of a panel attended by over 500 students, all of whom work in Paraguay's judicial system.