HomeNews‘Cartel of the Robe’ Reveals High-Level Corruption in Colombia’s Courts
NEWS

'Cartel of the Robe' Reveals High-Level Corruption in Colombia's Courts

COLOMBIA / 15 MAR 2021 BY LARA LOAIZA EN

A former chief justice of Colombia’s Supreme Court has been found guilty of corruption in a case that illustrates how the highest levels of judicial power in the country were able to form a criminal enterprise.  

Francisco Ricaurte was convicted March 9 of running a network known as the "Cartel de la Toga," or "Cartel of the Robe," in which judges and lawyers accepted bribes in exchange for providing political elites with favorable outcomes, El Tiempo reported. Ricaurte was a judge on the court from 2004 to 2012 and served as its president in 2008.

SEE ALSO: All About Elites and Crime

Others convicted of taking part in the bribery scheme include anti-corruption prosecutor Luis Gustavo Moreno and lawyer Leonardo Pinilla. Also charged in the case were former Supreme Court justices Camilo Tarquino and Gustavo Malo Fernández. Former Supreme Court President José Leonidas Bustos has also been accused of being part of the group, but he denies the accusation.

Prosecutors say that the Cartel de la Toga gave politicians -- including congressmen and governors – little or no jail time in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.

Former prosecutor Moreno, who was sentenced in 2018 for acts of corruption, testified during Ricaurte's trial that the group was “a criminal organization.”

InSight Crime Analysis

The Cartel de la Toga, of which Ricaurte was the ringleader, had all the hallmarks of an organized crime structure.

The judge who convicted Ricaurte said witness testimony showed that he actively looked for clients, determined the amount of money to be collected, and dictated which steps should be taken, El Tiempo reported. Additionally, the judge said, Ricaurte corrupted other officials for his personal benefit.

SEE ALSO: Colombia Judicial Corruption Scandal Expands With Fmr Top Judge’s Arrest

Notable cases involving the corruption network included that of Alejandro Lyons, the former governor of Córdoba, who was sentenced in 2018 to five years in prison for embezzlement of 10 billion pesos (about $2.7 million) from the department's coffers.

Lyons, who was facing 20 charges, sought the help of Pinilla and Moreno, but he ended up cooperating with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In 2017, at a Miami mall, agents watched as Lyons handed over an envelope with $10,000 to Pinilla. Pinilla then met with Moreno, who took the envelope.

Thanks to his collaboration with the DEA, Lyons is currently free in the United States.

Other cases tainted by the corruption network include those of former senators Musa Besaile and Álvaro Ashton. Besaile, who testified against Ricaurte, paid two billion Colombian pesos (about $560,000) to former prosecutor Moreno to ensure that a Supreme Court investigation of his alleged paramilitary ties came out in his favor. Ashton handed the network over 300 million pesos (about $84,000) to shelve the case.

"This wasn't sophisticated corruption," said the judge who convicted Ricaurte. "This is simple, vile corruption."

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

COLOMBIA / 7 OCT 2014

Colombia's Justice Minister has announced the dissolution of the National Narcotics Directorate (DNE), a move meant to clean up corruption…

ELITES AND CRIME / 18 MAR 2014

Guatemala's government has extradited longtime drug trafficking suspect Waldemar Lorenzana to the United States, a move that will please the…

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories…

About InSight Crime

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.

THE ORGANIZATION

Combating Environmental Crime in Colombia

15 JUN 2021

InSight Crime presented findings from an investigation into the main criminal activities fueling environmental destruction in Colombia.