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de Greiff Under Federal Investigation For Alleged Ties to Drug Cartels


January 1996

Gustavo de Greiff, the former prosecutor general of Colombia, is still facing allegations that he was blackmailed into releasing one drug trafficker and that he met illegally with another while he was being sought by police. The U.S. Attorney's office in Brooklyn is now investigating whether obstruction of justice charges should be brought against de Greiff.

As was reported in the December issue of NewsBriefs, a New York jury convicted Dandenny Munoz-Mosquera in December 1994 of bombing an Avianca jetliner over Bogota in 1989, killing 110 people, including one U.S. citizen. On August 13, 1992, Mosquera was arrested in the U.S. and charged with 13 counts of drug trafficking, racketeering, murder, and terrorism. A Colombian citizen, he was able to be tried in the U.S. for the airliner bombing because of two factors: Congress passed a law granting the U.S. jurisdiction in crimes in which a U.S. citizen is killed, and he was arrested in New York. Mosquera's first trial was very long and ended in a hung jury. Two jurors said they considered Mosquera a scapegoat and sympathized with him. After winning a conviction in the second trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Cheryl Pollak and Assistant U.S. Attorney Beth Wilkinson won the Attorney General's Exceptional Service Award (Dan White, "Putting Away Mosquera," Princeton Alumni Weekly, November 8, 1995, p. 16). Mosquera is now serving ten consecutive life sentences, although his case is currently in appeal.

Before Mosquera's trial, in April 1994, de Greiff sent a letter to U.S. District Court Judge Sterling Johnson stating that the Colombian government had a confession on file in the bombing from another Medellin cartel hit man. The State Department was furious with de Greiff, saying that de Greiff had earlier told them that Mosquera was a suspect and the confession of the other man was unreliable. In a letter to Colombian officials, the State Department charged that de Greiff's letter "call[s] into question the sincerity of Dr. de Greiff and his continuing commitment to our common goals in combatting illegal drugs."

Former Medellin cartel manager Carlos Botero testified at the trial for the prosecution that he heard Mosquera and others boasting about the plane bombing. The final prosecution witness at the trial was Victoria Uribe, who was serving time for laundering drug funds she carried between the U.S. and Colombia. She testified that her lover, Carlos Mario (who was close with Mosquera and Botero), told her that he helped Mosquera assemble the device used to bomb the Avianca jet.

During this testimony in December 1994, however, Uribe also alleged that she helped jailed drug trafficker Joaquin Builes blackmail de Greiff in 1993 with financial papers from a mining investment. After confronting de Greiff with the papers, she testified, he became very angry. Later, she said, de Greiff met with Builes and promised to get him out of jail. Builes was released later that year. Builes' cellmate at the time was Botero, who testified that Uribe visited Builes in jail and gave him the mining operation financial papers. Botero also said Builes boasted about blackmailing de Greiff. When Builes was released from jail, the U.S. was requesting he be extradited to face drug charges in the U.S., but Colombia has not had an extradition agreement with the U.S. since July 4, 1991.

When the allegations against de Greiff were made at Mosquera's trial, defense counsel argued the testimony was irrelevant to the case at hand. The judge, however, overruled the objection. "I think by a total of the circumstances and the testimony that's been given," said the judge, "you could logically infer that Attorney General de Greiff could be classified as a co-conspirator." Judge Johnson, a former special narcotics prosecutor for the City of New York, did not explain his comment further. Sources tell NewsBriefs that although Uribe's story about de Greiff did not directly pertain to the facts in the trial, it may have been used to bolster her credibility as a cartel insider.

Sources also tell NewsBriefs that both Uribe and Botero did not testify in the first trial, and only testified in the second trial in exchange for leniency in their own cases. Botero, in fact, read in a newspaper about the verdict in Mosquera's first trial and had his lawyer contact the prosecutors in the case. Uribe did not offer her testimony until three weeks before the second trial ended. She is now in the witness protection program.

In a November 14, 1995 letter printed in the Miami Herald, de Greiff responded to the charges. He explained that he had invested in the mining operation between 1976 to 1978. Builes had also been an investor in the operation at that time, but was not arrested on drug charges until 1990. Certified prison records show he never visited Builes in prison, he wrote, so Victoria Uribe clearly lied in her testimony at the trial.

"How awful it is to see what's happening in the war against drug trafficking!" de Greiff wrote. "Are people now to be blamed for not having foreseen 10 or 15 years ago that someone with whom they had lawful contact would become a drug trafficker?"

de Greiff is also facing accusations that he met with Miguel Rodriguez Orejuela, a former leader of the Cali cartel, when he was being sought by Colombian police. U.S. intelligence reports and Colombian newspaper investigations allege that de Greiff and Rodriguez Orejuela met twice in 1993 at the home of journalist Alberto Giraldo. Under Colombian law, it is illegal to have contact with someone who police are seeking. de Greiff denies he met with the cartel leader.

[Because of the ruthlessness of the crimes, the sums of money involved, the potential sentences and the political pressures surrounding these cases, as well as the pendency of the investigation of de Greiff and the appeal of Mosquera, the sources contacted for this story refused to be identified and were reluctant to discuss fully their knowledge of the case. NewsBriefs will continue to pursue this story and report on it in future issues.]