Last Thursday, June 30, the U.S. State Department sanctioned former Colombian senator Luis Alberto Gil Castillo for “participating in significant acts of corruption”, prohibiting him from entering U.S. territory.
Specifically, he is accused of accepting bribes from a group considered terrorist by the U.S., known as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), in exchange for exerting his political influence in favor of this organization. In addition, the United States alleges that the congressman tried to bribe a witness in a criminal case against him.
According to the US government, these bribes “undermined the stability of Colombia’s democratic institutions and the security of the United States against transnational crime and terrorism”.
The State Department’s sanction extends to all members of his immediate family. His wife, Doris Clemencia Vega, will not be allowed to enter the United States.
It should be noted that these sanctions come six months after President Joe Biden’s administration sanctioned Gil Castillo’s associate, Carlo Julián Bermeo Casas, a former Colombian prosecutor “for engaging in significant corruption”.
History of Corruption
Luis Gilberto Gil was in Congress between 2002 and 2007 representing the now defunct conservative party Convergencia Ciudadana, of which he was a founder. He reached Congress with more than 82,000 votes, being the most voted senator in Santander at the time.
But, in 2007, Colombian authorities began to investigate his alleged links with paramilitarism, determining that there was sufficient evidence of his meetings with paramilitary leaders.
The former senator resigned his seat in Congress and answered to the Supreme Court in a trial that lasted about five years. Thus, in 2012, it was determined that the accelerated growth of the Convergencia Ciudadana party was the result of the support of the AUC, since Gil, together with former legislators Óscar Reyes Cárdenas and Alfonso Riaño, made pacts with the former paramilitary leaders of the Bloque Central Bolívar, agreeing on electoral support in the department of Santander, in exchange for political and economic benefits. He was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Among the evidence presented by the Prosecutor’s Office were letters in which the paramilitary group reported to the former senator the number of votes obtained thanks to his support. In addition, they relied on the statements of former councilors of the municipality of Barrancabermeja.
In 2019, Gil faced justice again, when it became known that he led a criminal network to try to stop the extradition to the United States of former guerrilla Jesús Santrich, who died in an operation in May 2021. He was captured in flagrante delicto while meeting in a hotel in the north of Bogota, in the middle of negotiations to truncate the extradition.
In July 2021, the Ninth Specialized Criminal Court of Bogotá sentenced him to four and a half years in prison for participating in a criminal network, illegally offering his services to provide privileged information in judicial and administrative proceedings.