Colombia ex-general pleads guilty to supporting terrorism

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

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WASHINGTON, USA - A retired Colombian national police general pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of conspiring to support a group that Washington considers a terrorist organisation, the US Justice Department said.

Former general Mauricio Santoyo, who for four years was president Alvaro Uribe's chief of security, faces up to 15 years prison for accepting bribes from the right-wing paramilitary United Self-Defense Units of Colombia (AUC).

In his plea agreement, Santoyo -- who surrendered to US authorities in July -- acknowledged that between 2001 and 2008 he supported and protected the AUC, a group charged with smuggling tons of cocaine into the US.

"During the course of this conspiracy, high-level AUC members and associates would pay substantial bribes to the defendant in exchange for the defendant's assistance in their operations, which included the commission of terrorist acts and drug-trafficking," read the plea agreement, which the Justice Department made public.

"In exchange for these bribes, the defendant informed members and associates of the AUC of ongoing investigations by Colombian, British, and United States law enforcement."

Santoyo was head of Colombia's elite counter terrorism force between 2000 and 2002.

In 2002, when conservative Alvaro Uribe took office, he became head of the president's security until 2006. Uribe, who was re-elected to office, remained in power until 2010.

The agreement states that the US government can confiscate the ex-general's belongings.

A federal judge in Alexandria, Virginia will issue a sentence on November 30, the Justice Department said.

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