BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia has requested a forensic audit of a fund that manages assets to compensate victims of the country’s internal armed conflict, due to irregularities related to almost 1,000 properties, as the government looks to assist millions of people victimized by criminal and rebel groups.
The case, which concerns the Victims’ Reparation Fund, follows another in which Colombia’s attorney general’s office is investigating allegedly missing assets confiscated from drug traffickers and held by the Special Assets Society (SAE) which President Gustavo Petro plans to handover to farmers and women.
Assets seized and held by the SAE are worth some 25.7 trillion pesos ($5.6 billion). The number of missing assets has not been confirmed.
The Victims’ Reparation Fund is charged with receiving goods and properties seized from former far-right paramilitaries by the attorney general’s office, to rent or sell them to the public, and then using the resulting funds to address the needs of the conflict’s 9 million victims.
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However, irregularities concerning the management of 932 of the fund’s 2,346 assets – which include houses, farms and apartments – have come to light, such as renting properties for under $1 per month, Patricia Tobon, the new director of the unit for comprehensive attention and reparation for victims, told journalists.
Tobon did not confirm the combined worth of the 932 affected properties.
“There’s an absence of lease contracts in some occupied properties, which makes it difficult to identify the value received for the property, the profits generated,” Tobon said, adding that some were occupied without permission.
“When we looked into the administration of the assets, we found that background checks were not carried out, … and today we don’t know exactly who holds those assets,” she said.
A lack of available resources is the main reason why just 1 million victims have been compensated in the last 14 years, Tobon added.
Prosecutors will be asked to investigate at least 13 state entities in which irregularities have been found, said Andres Idarraga, transparency secretary for the presidency.
(Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Leslie Adler)
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