Colombian politician Fajardo to face embezzlement charges

Julia Symmes Cobb
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Presidential candidate Fajardo speaks to media after casting his ballot at a polling station in Medellin

By Julia Symmes Cobb

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian politician and 2022 presidential hopeful Sergio Fajardo will be charged with embezzlement over a loan contract signed when he was a governor, the attorney general's office said on Wednesday.

The center-left Fajardo, who barely missed out on a place in 2018's second round of presidential voting and is campaigning again for the post, was governor of Antioquia province between 2012 and 2015 and said he is ready to defend his actions.

The contract, a $77 million loan agreement with Banco CorpBanca, was signed in 2013. Banco CorpBanca was later taken over by Banco Itau.

"As always I'm ready to respond for my actions, but I will formally ask the attorney general to preside over a technical judicial committee to review the inadmissibility of these charges," Fajardo said on Twitter, adding he was waiting for a citation from the attorney general's office.

Banco Itau said it had no comment.

"The prosecutor before the Supreme Court of Justice will charge ex-Governor Sergio Fajardo Valderrama with the crimes of aggravated embezzlement by appropriation in favor of third parties and contractual incompliance with legal requirements," the attorney general's office said in a statement.

"Ex-Governor Fajardo, apart from being the head of departmental administration, ordered the spending, signed the contract...He had the responsibility and the position of guarantor in administrative decisions related to this contract."

There was no study done on the need for the contract to be denominated in dollars, the attorney general's office said, nor a projection about the volatility of the dollar or insurance to guard against exchange rate risks.

The U.S. dollar was trading at 1,926 pesos in 2013 when the contract was signed, but had strengthened to 3,140 pesos by 2015, the statement said, creating "fiscal detriment" for Antioquia.

The attorney general's office will not request Fajardo be detained, it said.

(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)