Latin America & Caribbean

Colombian leader 'outraged' by army corruption claims

J M Santos, 12 Dec 13 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Santos has heard damaging allegations about the Colombian army twice in two weeks

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos says he is "outraged" by allegations of a massive corruption network in the Colombian army.

The allegations were published by the Colombian weekly magazine Semana.

It says it has taped conversations that prove that huge amounts of money were siphoned off by corrupt army officers.

The defence budget has soared in recent years and the US continues to pay Colombia a generous annual allowance to wage war on drugs.

Some generals and other senior officers are accused of taking bribes of up to 50% of the contracts they awarded; others of diverting money that was meant to be spent at the barracks on petrol and other supplies.

The irregularities allegedly took place in 2012 and 2013.

'Full investigation'

President Santos has ordered the ministry of defence to carry out a full investigation.

"I feel outraged by the damage that this causes to the armed forces and the country," said Mr Santos.

He added that "crimes of corruption" should be investigated by civilian prosecutors - not military courts.

Two weeks ago, Semana published potentially damaging allegations involving the Colombian army.

It said that an elite military group had spied on government officials engaged in peace negotiations in Cuba with Colombia's largest rebel group, the Farc.

Mr Santos dismissed the army's intelligence unit.

The army said the group had been set up legally and had not performed illicit activities.

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