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Colombia Leader Faces New Probe

February 21, 1996| Reuters

BOGOTA, Colombia — A congressional committee said Tuesday that it has formally reopened a drug corruption probe of President Ernesto Samper.

The widely expected move by the Committee of Accusations of the House of Representatives was announced by the panel's president after a meeting that was called to weigh new evidence against Samper submitted by the country's chief prosecutor last week.

The 15-member committee, dominated by lawmakers from Samper's own Liberal Party and the only body constitutionally authorized to hear evidence against the president, shelved a preliminary probe of Samper in December, citing a lack of evidence linking him to wrongdoing in connection with his campaign finances.

By reopening the investigation, it set in motion another possible move toward the president's impeachment on charges that he used Cali cartel drug money to bankroll his 1994 election campaign.

Four Liberal Party lawmakers have been arrested since last year on charges similar to those facing Samper, and three others were notified Monday that they were the targets of preliminary drug-corruption investigations by the country's Supreme Court.

Scores of lawmakers are suspected of drug corruption, and the problem is so extensive that there was talk in Congress this week of reviving plans to draft an amnesty plan for corrupt legislators. Talk about the plan, under which members of Congress would be exempt from criminal prosecution as long as they vacate their seats in the Senate or the House, surfaced for the first time last year.

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