The Andrade trial: Deception, forgery, and corruption
© Getty Images

Americans are being illegally detained around the globe in places like Iran, Turkey, Venezuela, and now Colombia. It should concern all Americans – home and abroad – that once leaving our country they too could be subject to politically motivated charges. A stark example of such abuse is the case of Mr. Luis F. Andrade – an American citizen – who left his Senior Partner position in McKinsey & company, to serve as the head of the infrastructure agency in the government of his parents’ home country of Colombia, in an altruistic attempt to help that nation move forward.

However, while serving in that role, he was illegitimately made the scapegoat in the Odebrecht scandal and is now under house arrest on trumped-up charges by Colombia’s Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martinez.

ADVERTISEMENT

The persecution of Luis exemplifies the general backsliding of the democratic institutions of Colombia in recent years. These charges are rooted in Colombia’s Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martinez’s attempts to cover up his own and his client’s involvement with the Odebrecht bribery scandal that sent shockwaves throughout Latin America.

Luis is being punished – not for any legal wrongdoing – but because he dared to oppose cost overrun claims and go to an arbitration tribunal to ask that the Odebrecht contract at the center of this scandal be deemed null and void. This angered Attorney General Martinez, and the powerful individuals he is protecting. They soon brought these false charges against him to force his resignation.

It is well known that the Attorney General had been at the center of Odebrecht’s activities in Colombia. Additionally, the contract at the center of this bribery scandal was granted by the Colombian government two years before Luis took his position as director of ANI.

The case against Luis is an attempt by Attorney General Martínez to deflect the corruption away from himself and his old client, Grupo AVAL. Mr. Martínez’s conflicts of interest are overwhelming. He previously served as external counsel to Odebrecht and Grupo AVAL – the parent company of Odebrecht’s partner in Colombia. Later he served as Chief of Staff for former President Santos. These are positions in which he was able to draft a favorable legal opinion for this Odebrecht contract and then approve this very same contract in his capacity as Chief of Staff.

Now Martinez continues to use the trappings of power in a brazen attempt to keep Luis from finding justice. In fact, last year he placed a wiretap on Luis’ phone lines – using as his cover a memo from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. However, the memo is now suspected of being fake. The DEA replied in a determination letter to Luis’s attorney stating, “[W]e are unable to locate any records responsive to your request.”

That a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency memorandum might have been forged in order to conduct illegal surveillance on a U.S. citizen should be extremely troubling to the people of both the United States and Colombia. Such behavior by the highest law enforcement official in the country has no place in any nation that considers itself a law-abiding country.

With all the funding and support that the United States gives to Colombia, it is unacceptable that any portion of this funding or support is being used to illegally spy on U.S. citizens.

While the election of President Duque demonstrates that the people of Colombia desire a strong leader capable of stopping these troubling trends and abuses of power, he unfortunately cannot rein in this rogue attorney general because Martínez was appointed by then-President Santos and has two years remaining in his appointment. Therefore, it is incumbent on President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown MORE and our leaders in Congress to demand answers as to how a DEA memorandum might have been forged to place a wiretap on a U.S. citizen, completely violating his constitutional rights. In addition, an independent commission should be established in Colombia to review the rule of law in Colombia as well as any examples of prosecutorial abuse.

If we want to ensure the safety of Americans serving abroad, we must hold foreign governments accountable so that they maintain a strong legal system that is free of corruption.

Connie Mack IV is a former U.S. Congressman, Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, and Luis Andrade family representative.