Colombia Army general resigns amid embezzlement scandal

Posted on Feb 17 2014 - 11:24am by Editor
Javier Rey Navas

A Colombian Army general implicated in revelations of widespread defense contracting embezzlement formally resigned Monday.

Minister of Defense Juan Carlos Pinzon announced via Twitter early Monday that he has accepted the resignation of Army General Javier Rey Navas, one of various top-level military officials allegedly involved in an emerging corruption scandal.

The tweet expressed the minister’s “personal regret at the departure of a great soldier” but doesn’t mention the circumstances surrounding the former general’s departure.

MORE: Colombia’s military discredited further, now accused of embezzlement

Rey, who served as the Chief of the Joint Military Command, was one of a number of high-ranking armed servicemen named in recordings published Sunday by the Semana magazine, indicating that members of the Colombian Army siphoned millions of dollars in defense contracts. In many cases, the report concluded, the embezzled funds were used to assure the continued silence of soldiers convicted in relation to the military’s “false positives” practice, in which soldiers were offered bonuses and paid vacation in exchange for murdering civilians and dressing their bodies up like rebel insurgents.

Rey has denied having conversations with imprisoned Colonel Robinson González del Río, who is currently being tried for two murders and, according to the tapes, has been coordinating the embezzlement scheme from prison. In light of his professed innocence, the general has not provided any alternative explanation for his resignation.

The former general spent four years as commander of the Army’s Air Assault Division, and gained some notoriety for leading a campaign of targeted air strikes that succeeded in killing numerous high-level leaders within the FARC rebel group, Colombia’s oldest.

In a statement released on the ministry website, Pinzon indicated that his office will be looking into the allegations made public by Semana, and that a zero-tolerance approach will be adhered to for all cases of corruption within the defense contracting system.

The statement goes on to lament that scandals such as these “create an environment of mistrust of what is a legitimate and indispensable institution for the strengthening of democracy.”

This most recent scandal comes just weeks after the same Semana magazine reported on a clandestine Army operation that recorded the communications of opposition politicians, journalists, and delegates to ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC.

Disciplinary measures in regards to those revelations are also still pending.

So far, Commander General Leonardo Barrero, another high-level military official who was indeed recorded in conversations with Gonzalez, has said that “none of the audio published by Semana magazine can prove that [I have] participated in any act of corruption.”

The investigation into the most recent scandal has reportedly been handed over to the Attorney and Inspector Generals’ Offices.

Sources

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