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Colombian President Gustavo Petro's son charged in money laundering scheme

His former wife, Daysuris Vásquez, is also charged with money laundering and violation of personal data

Presidente de Colombia, Gustavo Petro
Presidente de Colombia, Gustavo Petro | EFE

July 30, 2023 11:39am

Updated: July 30, 2023 11:39am

Colombian prosecutors have charged Nicolás Petro, President Gustavo Petro’s son, of money laundering and illicit enrichment, according to regional press reports. His former wife, Daysuris Vásquez, is also charged with money laundering and violation of personal data.

The Colombian president immediately expressed sadness over the arrest, and vowed not to interfere with the investigation.

Nicolás has been under the scrutiny of authorities since March when his father requested the Prosecutor's Office investigate rumors of his son’s involvement with drug traffickers.

Within days, Attorney General Francisco Barbosa, the country’s chief prosecutor who previously raided Petro’s office, launched an investigation into Nicolás’ assets and purported money laundering.

Colombia’s First Son now stands accused of laundering millions of dollars from a former drug dealer and businessman, according to his ex-partner, also brought to justice this Saturday.

After learning of the capture of his son, Petro expressed the pain the ordeal was causing him as a father.

“It hurts me a lot to see so much self-destruction, and the fact that one of my sons goes to jail,” he said.

The Colombian president also denied having met or received “any type of favor” from individuals associated with criminal enterprises.

Reports have suggested investigators are trying to determine if people close to Nicolás obtained large sums of money from illegal sources, and if those funds were used as part of Petro's presidential campaign.

Colombian media reports have also suggested that Samuel Santander Lópesierra Gutierrez, commonly known as the ‘Marlboro Man,’ a convicted ex-drug trafficker and former leftist Senator, gave money to Nicolás through a Caribbean based lawyer and accountant.

Lópesierra was extradited nearly two decades ago to the U.S. and was charged by federal prosecutors in the District of Colombia after his purported involvement in a money laundering scandal in Puerto Rico.

“Lopesierra is a former member of the Colombian Senate, representing the Department of La Guajira from 1993 to 1996, and a partner in a family business that imported cigarettes and whiskey into Colombia. His conviction was the result of a two-year investigation conducted by the Colombian National Police with the assistance of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA),” says a 2007 Justice Department press release.

“That investigation, known as “Operation Conquista,” resulted in the seizure of more than 650 kilograms of cocaine and more than $1.5 million in United States currency and disrupted one of the largest drug trafficking groups operating along Colombia’s north coast.”

Lópesierra has since returned to Colombia where he is seeking office as the mayor of Maicao, a municipality located in the Department of La Guajira in the northern region of the country.

Other individuals associated with the investigation include a businessman who purportedly made his fortune in the installation of public lighting, and was also rumored to be involved in past acts of paramilitary violence. 

The president's son received $600 million from him between February and March 2022, according to Nicolás Petro's ex-partner.

Both Nicolás Petro and Day Vásquez are scheduled to appear before a municipal criminal court judge who will review the legality of how the police conducted the investigation, including the search and seizure of evidence.