Colombia's presidential chief of staff, Laura Sarabia, in a file photo, April 25, 2023. (Credit: Sebastian Barros/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
(CNN Spanish) -- The Attorney General of Colombia, Francisco Barbosa, announced on Sunday that his institution opened an investigation on Saturday against Laura Sarabia, chief of staff of President Gustavo Petro, for alleged abuse of power over the former nanny of his son, who denounced in a newspaper interview having been pressured after the official reported the disappearance of money from her home.
Sarabia's former employee, Marelbys Meza, said in an interview with the magazine Semana published on Saturday to have suffered irregularities after the alleged theft of US $ 7,000 from a briefcase that was in the official's apartment. This robbery would have occurred on January 29.
According to Meza's version, on January 30 she was taken to a building in front of the Casa de Nariño, seat of the Government, where she was interrogated about the facts and also subjected to a polygraph test, apparently by personnel belonging to the presidential protection.
"They asked me about the suitcase, if I had taken the money. That if I had accomplices, that if I had given that to someone else, that where I had taken, that at what time I left." The former employee said she "didn't know what that suitcase contained."
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This Sunday, Sarabia responded to the accusations on his Twitter account: "My family and I were victims of a robbery. The Prosecutor's Office investigates as responsible who gave the version to Semana. The presidential protection headquarters and the SIJIN acted in accordance with the protocols within the framework of the law."
The official said that she had reported the theft in a timely manner to the authorities and said that "it was for a sum in dollars not exceeding US $ 7,000, corresponding to payments of official travel expenses made during August 2022 and January 2023 and that are delivered to us in that foreign currency. "
Gustavo Petro, President of Colombia. Credit: OSCAR DEL POZO/AFP via Getty Images
The Presidential Protection Headquarters rejected on Sunday in a statement the "versions about alleged abuse of power, misuse of public resources and mistreatment of defenseless people," affirming that the procedures were carried out at the headquarters of that agency "visible, duly identified and arranged in that same location for many years ago."
The Headquarters assures that it acted in accordance with the legal scheme that governs the security of senior officials of the Colombian State and pointed out that, in accordance with this, "when incidents occur that violate their security and that of their environment, all planned actions are immediately activated."
Attorney General Barbosa said in statements to local media that he found what happened "very serious," especially because, he stressed, it is up to the Prosecutor's Office to investigate this type of case and there was no prior judicial order for the procedure against Sarabia's former employee.
"I think the complaint is very serious. Yesterday in the Prosecutor's Office made a statement the person who is pointing out. This statement was accompanied by a request for protection. The Prosecutor's Office is protecting this person and we initiated the investigation of the case. The only entity in this country that can carry out investigation processes into facts constituting crimes is the Attorney General's Office," Barbosa said.
In the interview with Semana, the former nanny said: "I felt that they were going to leave me there, that I was not going to go out again. They did my polygraph and told me: 'You can make fun of that device, but not us. Tonight he is not going to his house, from here he is imprisoned, and we are going to search all his brothers and you.'"
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Jaime Arango, a former national security adviser under former President Iván Duque, told CNN that the process against Meza is irregular. "The nanny is not a public official nor is she subject to the intelligence law. She cannot be led to anything without a court order. There was no theft of documents that compromise national security. It was a domestic situation and it is not proven that she is responsible," Arango said.
President Petro came out to publicly support his official. "It was a day full of lies," the president said Saturday on his official Twitter account.
Barbosa said the Attorney General's Office is investigating both the alleged burglary at her apartment and the alleged irregularities her former nanny reported for the way she was treated.
The prosecutor also announced that in the coming days Petro's chief of staff must give her statements to a prosecutor to clarify the facts while Meza is now under the protection of the highest judicial investigation body in Colombia.
Petro and prosecutor Barbosa recently starred in a controversy after the president claimed that the official owed him respect for being his "direct boss." To which Barbosa replied that the attorney general has no hierarchical superior. The Supreme Court of Justice endorsed Barbosa's position, while calling on the parties to lower the tension.