the love triangle that became the basis of Senator Mario Castano’s network to rob the state

Several powerful episodes have just taken place that brought down the questionable and powerful liberal senator Mario Castano and his criminal organization that was responsible for co-opting dozens of millionaires’ public procurements in order to keep this money. Castaño’s cast includes two women, if you want a corrupt love triangle: his wife and his girlfriend. In addition, the preliminary agreement has already been signed, whereby two key witnesses, lobbyist Nova Lorena Cañón and contractor Santiago Castaño, promise to strip the net.

First, Castano’s closest confidant, his girlfriend, Daniela Ospina Loaiza, was captured. Now his wife, Gloria Lucia Betancourt, entered the radar of justice, on whom they would find more than 25 assets that would exceed 13,000 million pesos. A figure that, due to its income, is impossible to justify. At the height of the scandal, the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office asked to investigate her for money laundering and illicit enrichment, which could lead to swift indictments.

The assets in the name of Betancur and Castaño, which are already subject to domain forfeiture, are located in Medellin, Antioquia, Risaralda, Caldas and Bolivar. These are farms, houses, plots, vehicles and apartments, including one located in a luxury sector of Cartagena.

Castano wanted his other partner, Daniela Ospina Loaiza, to be nearby. So much so that he got him a contract in Congress for 20 million pesos a month, with one stipulation: he didn’t work, passed a chimbo report and billed like that.

Castano’s main headache varies between his girlfriend and his ex-wife. If any of them raise their hand to seek cooperation with the justice system, the criminal empire will come crashing down once and for all, as no one knows the senator’s innermost secrets like they do.

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As if that wasn’t enough, at the Supreme Court they just opened an investigation against House Representative Sandra Aristizabal, who was Castaño’s ticket to Congress. The problem is the millionaire contracts at Telecafé, where she was a director until she entered politics at the hands of Castaño. A magistrate from the investigative panel of the court has already requested information from the channel. The prosecutor’s office did the same, and made a report on the lucrative contracts.

more witnesses

The second devastating fact is the support a judge gave to two of Castaño’s confidants. They testified against the corruption web that now exceeds 110,000 million pesos in mismanaged contracts.

One of them is another woman, lobbyist Nova Lorena Cañon, who they are trying to silence after her capture. In fact, she is the one who has just signed a preliminary agreement, along with contractor Santiago Castano, to be released in exchange for telling everything she knows about this criminal pact.

Advance contract Nova Lorena Canyon.
Advance contract Nova Lorena Canyon. – Photo: Screenshot from the prosecutor’s office document.

As it was known, in the premises of the old DAS, where she was originally imprisoned, there were messages that she did not speak “that her problem will be fixed”.

They went from words to deeds. When she was transferred to the El Buen Pastor prison, dark hands gave a juicy sum of money to an inmate, the head of one of the yards, to pressure her, besiege her, harass her and, as the prison says, turn her into his partner to controls it. The patio had to be replaced.

Another front-line character is fugitive Juan Carlos Martinez, known as “the man with the briefcase,” an obscure character considered Castaño’s right-hand man. “He was the guy on the ticket” who also got a Senate contract for inaction and would now be willing to speak.

However, one as absurd as it is unusual request attracts attention. Martinez has said he will cooperate but that he will not surrender to justice out of fear. He suggests that his testimony or meetings with prosecutors be virtual. He announced that he would be willing to tell what has not yet come out of this scandal.

The possibility principle

SEMANA has the explosive principle of opportunity signed by Deputy Attorney General Martha Mancera. It details how Cañon and Santiago Castaño committed themselves to justice to speak out against 21 people who were part of the corrupt Senator Castaño’s criminal network, today behind bars.

The fence was closed so much that the senator, who initially claimed and even waved, claiming that he was innocent and that he was a victim of political persecution, ended up being cornered and had no choice but to accept the charges and undergo early judgment.

SEMANA exclusively reveals the 21-page document that becomes the backbone of the indictment and conviction that Castano and his network will have to face. According to this writing, Cañón, who had just been released due to his effective cooperation with the justice system, promised to throw eight people from the net directly into the water. First on this list, Mario Castaño.

For him, according to the preliminary contract, he will say that “he proposed percentages of the total value of the orders to be awarded, for projects such as Shake yourself to Park of the Ministry of Interior, ambulances and agreements with the Ministry of Culture for the Workshop School of Caldas ( …) coordinates the supply of money as compensation for negotiations with national and local entities. He participates in meetings where he is given instructions and tasks to be performed and the corresponding remuneration.”

The other key witness, now also at large, Santiago Castaño, who knew by heart the articulate management of the contract and how the sums and bribes were distributed to keep these millionaire jobs, also put Castaño first.

Preliminary contract Santiago Castaño.
Preliminary contract Santiago Castaño. – Photo: Screenshot from the prosecutor’s office document.

“There are two private works in Manizales, Caldas, advanced with money from public construction contracts. He proposed percentages of the total value of the contracts that will be awarded (…) A direct witness to the statements made by Juan Carlos Martinez regarding the economic participation that the senator will receive, ”the document says.

It is Martinez, the “man with the briefcase”, who is a fugitive from justice, where the batteries of Cañon and Castaño are also directed. In this episode, co-opted mayors begin to appear involved, as well as tentacles in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Culture and Sports and the National Risk Management Unit.

The charges are clear: “Establishes the percentages to be paid in exchange for irregular procurement. He held communications and meetings with mayors to agree on the direction of the projects. He received information from government officials about the submission and status of the projects.

And the last direct statement is that “he was in charge of finding a contractor to do private work for Senator Mario Castaño. He pointed out what should be the management of advance payments on works where contractors are assigned to the group. He received money for illegally brokering contracts. He is an assistant to Senator Mario Castaño.

Nova Lorena Cañón also named Martinez as the second most important member of the corrupt network. About him, he said that he “gave money as a reward for negotiating with the persons to award contracts irregularly. He coordinates the meetings between local leaders Lorena Cañón and Pablo Gómez (individually)”.

Research and collaboration are tied to their main characters. The next one is Pablo Gomez, whom he points out as collecting and receiving money from the juicy contracts and also participating in the senator’s meetings with mayors.

Although the participation of civil servants was sought in the investigations, only this possibility was reached with the participation of an adviser from the Ministry of the Interior. This is Paul Salamanca who, according to the impressive document, “requested 3% of the contract value to help support the approval and viability of the Ministry’s Shake the Park projects”. This is being checked by the authorities.

The lobbyist “provided photographs of the list sent by Salamanca, in relation to which it is intended to obtain an illegal profit”. The sums show the extent of corruption and in this respect it applies to other entities such as the Ministry of Finance and Fontur.

James Peña, director of the Escuela Taller de Caldas, is also mentioned, of whom he says: “He gave 300 million pesos to Lorena and Pablo for the steps taken before the Ministries of Finance and Culture, also the payment to lobby Fontur for a gastronomic project .

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