Colombian General Mauricio Santoyo to fight drug charge
- 19 June 2012
- From the section Latin America & Caribbean
A retired Colombian police general accused of drug trafficking says he will face the charges head-on.
A US court has accused Gen Mauricio Santoyo of helping Colombian drug gangs and right-wing paramilitaries to smuggle cocaine to Mexico and the US.
He allegedly committed the crimes while he was serving as the head of security for the Colombian president at the time, Alvaro Uribe.
Mr Uribe has urged Gen Santoyo to answer the charges.
The US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has indicted Gen Santoyo on conspiracy to distribute cocaine "knowing and intending that it would be unlawfully imported to the United States".
Gen Santoyo allegedly helped a drug gang called Office of Envigado and right-wing paramilitaries of the United Self Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) to smuggle cocaine from Colombia through Mexico and Central America to the United States.
According to the indictment, he provided intelligence information collected by the Colombian security forces to drug traffickers.
Prosecutors say this included information about the whereabouts of rival dealers, who would later turn up dead, presumed killed by the drug traffickers to whom Gen Santoyo had handed the information.
The indictment also accuses the general of tipping off drug dealers about impending security operations by the Colombian forces, the US Drug Enforcement Administration and British counter-narcotics agents.
The prosecution says that in exchange for his help, the AUC and the Office of Envigado paid Gen Santoyo sizeable bribes.
Gen Santoyo said he was certain he would be able to rebut all the charges made against him.
"I served Colombia for more than 30 years in the National Police, and I'm sure I can dispel any doubts about my actions", he told Colombian newspaper El Tiempo on Monday.
The charges had first been reported on Saturday by El Tiempo, which had seen a copy of the indictment.
Asked for a response to the charges, he said he "couldn't well answer until I know the document in question".
"I always have been and will continue to be at the disposal of the relevant authorities to dispel any accusations made against me," he said.
Colombian Police Director Gen Jose Roberto Leon Riano said the police had not yet received an arrest warrant for Gen Santoyo.
"As soon as we receive a formal request, we will offer our full collaboration," Gen Leon Riano said.
Gen Santoyo served as the commander of Colombia's elite counter-terrorism force from 2000 to 2002.
From 2002 to 2006 he was the head of security for the president at the time, Alvaro Uribe.
According to the indictment, it was during this time period that he conspired with the Office of Envigado and the AUC.
Mr Uribe tweeted that he hoped that "Santoyo and the police institution would explain the case".
The BBC's Jeremy McDermott says news of the indictment is another embarrassment for the former president.
Our correspondent says Gen Santoyo is just the latest in a long line of Mr Uribe's close associates and family members to be linked to drug cartels and right-wing paramilitary death squads.
Gen Santoyo is the highest ranking police officer to be investigated over drug charges.