Latin America & Caribbean

Colombian police raid drug assets office

Packets of cash seized by police in Bogota on 5 October, 2010
Image caption The agency controls thousands of assets seized from the drugs trade, ranging from cash to property

Police in Colombia have raided the offices of the government body which controls assets seized from drug traffickers.

Officials said serious anomalies had emerged in the agency's book-keeping.

The government has taken control of the National Narcotics Office while the allegations are being investigated.

Police became suspicious after drug traffickers were found to be in possession of properties which had officially been seized by the agency.

Colombian Minister of Justice German Vargas Lleras said he had ordered the intervention after "hundreds of irregularities and many serious anomalies" had surfaced at the National Narcotics Office.

The government announced the contracts of 100 employees would not be renewed, and all remaining employees would come under close scrutiny.

'Not in order'

National Narcotics Office director Juan Carlos Restrepo said he would turn the agency "into a goldfish bowl with total accountability".

Mr Restrepo took over the leadership of the agency in September.

His predecessor, Omar Figueroa, was asked to resign from his post after it was found that the person put in charge of managing the property seized from an infamous drug dealer had links to the dealer's cartel.

Mr Restrepo said that the officers who raided the National Narcotics Office had found evidence that its accounting system had been tampered with.

"There are indications that lead me to believe that the agency's inventory is not in order," he said.

But, he said, Tuesday's raid would be the start of a new era for the agency, which in future would become known for its transparency and accountability.

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