Nineteen individuals, including soldiers, were each sentenced to 22 years in prisonfor their role in the sale of military arms and ammunitions to FARC guerrillas and other criminal gangs.
Seven soldiers and 12 civilians were found guilty of arms trafficking and financing terrorism in a court case that was held in secrecy because of national security concerns.
The trial brings to a close Operation Ivory which was set up to investigate the losses of armaments from military warehouses and lead to the discovery in September 2013 of a civilian transporting an estimated 8,000 bullets that belonged to the Colombian Army’s Primera Brigada.
“The weapons were withdrawn from military garrisons in the cities of Bogota and Neiva and then by way of human couriers, they were transported to different towns in the department of Cauca, amongst others, where they were then delivered to members of illegal armed groups,” an unnamed officer involved in the investigation told El Espectador newspaper.
The gang had reportedly sold in excess of 100,000 bullets, 1,000 hand grenades, 30 rifles and 10 machine guns during a two-year period. Among its main buyers were the VI and X Fronts of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s, or FARC, Teofilo Forero unit.
For the Colombian district attorney’s office, the case was vexing because those involved in the sale and distribution of the weaponry were soldiers, who have a constitutional duty to protect Colombians and not provide arms to subversive groups to commit attacks against the civilian population.
The court’s final decision comes at a time of strained relations between FARC rebels and the Colombian government, who have been engaged in ongoing peace dialogues in Cuba since November 2012, after the massacre of 11 soldiers in the department of Cauca last month.
The FARC has continually used its position to push for a bilateral cease-fire, a move President Juan Manuel Santos has rejected. (Anadolu Ajansi)