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Sometimes corrupt politicians feel more at ease in engaging in illegal transactions after crossing borders, supposedly away from adoring crowds. But, any well-known public figure is never too far from the watchful eye of his adorning public, especially when tied up in a high profile case.
Luis Gustavo Moreno Rivera, Colombia’s chief anti-corruption official, entered a bathroom in the Dolphin Mall in Miami earlier this month with another man, former governor Alejandro Lyons Muskus. Muskus held an envelope filled with $10,000 in cash while Moreno waited for a hand off in a stall. Nearby, undercover federal agents watched the whole transaction, catching most of it on audio tape.
Muskus had acted as a cooperating witness in the federal sting operation orchestrated to catch Moreno red-handed for accepting bribes to influence a case he had against Muskus and enable the ex-governor to go free. Muskus was wanted on twenty corruption charges in Colombia and has been linked to a possible murder. Moreno, by way of attorney friend Leonardo Pinilla Gomez, had allegedly offered to “obstruct the corruption investigation” in exchange for 400 million pesos, or approximately $132,000. Rather than simply buy into his freedom, Muskus saw this as an opportunity to help federal agents pin Moreno, thereby eliminating the prosecuting party altogether. Pinilla acted as a go between for the two men.
It all started back in November when Pinilla initially approached the ex-governor with a private message from Moreno indicating he was willing to try to obstruct the case by discrediting the testimonies of witnesses for a hefty price of $132,000. Then, again in early 2017, Moreno disclosed three people were given immunity in exchange for testifying against the ex-governor. The disclosure was made in an attempt to get the man to accept the fee.
It worked. Pinilla later contacted the ex-governor on Moreno’s behalf yet and asked for approximately $34,500 in exchange for copies of sworn statements taken from cooperators. Then, on June 15, Moreno flew to Miami to “give an anti-corruption presentation to the Internal Revenue Service” according to court documents. He saw this as his chance to collect the down payment of $10,000.
Moreno first met with Pinilla and Muskus, wired by agents, near a La Quinta Inn in Doral. The three talked about the deal and Muskus confirmed he wanted to make the payments in order to sink the case. According to court documents, Moreno promised he could “saturate the prosecutors that work under him with a great deal of unrelated casework to distract them.” Moreno later walked into Dolphin mall to collect the $10,000.
According to prosecutors several $100 bills from the $10,000 were found on Moreno and his family as they boarded a flight back to Bogota. His wife claimed she was planning to spend the money on jewelry. Instead, Moreno was taken into custody in Bogota and charged with attempting to spearhead his own corruption campaign for $200,000 in bribes. The extradition process to Miami could takes months.