CAMBIOColombia, October 22, 2022
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Retired General Rodolfo Palomino is enjoying the farm that had belonged to Pedro Orejas, who was captured when the General was the Director of the National Police.
The former Director General of the Police rented from the SAE (Special Assets Society) the ranch from the emerald dealer and drug trafficker Pedro Orejas, now extradited.
Paradoxically, the last decision made by the Iván Duque administration for the Special Assets Society, which administers the properties seized from the mafia, was adopted when Gustavo Petro was already the President. The decision was made on August 17, just two days before the new President appointed Daniel Rojas to the SAE board of directors, the officials in charge of renting out a coveted ranch that had belonged to the now extradited emerald dealer and drug trafficker, Pedro Nel Rincón Castillo, alias “Pedro Orejas”.
That was newsworthy enough, but there’s more. The beneficiary is Retired General Rodolfo Palomino, who wore the National Police uniform for four decades and was the Director General of that agency at the time that the drug trafficker from Boyacá was captured. At the beginning of this year, when General Palomino had already retired, the Inspector General removed him from office and ordered him disqualified from holding any office for 13 years, because he had used his power to silence an officer who filed a complaint against him for workplace and sexual harassment.
It causes concern when a high official ends up enjoying the property of a criminal that he had pursued, especially when General Palomino himself has been the target of serious criticism. Besides his removal by the Inspector General, there is the mention of his name in the “carousel” of contracts for the armored cars. Not only General Rodolfo Palomino, but also his brother, Colonel José Luis Palomino, have been related to investigations of their alleged participation in a contracting cartel that bribed officials to obtain the contracts for the sale and maintenance of the armored cars used by several government agencies, including the National Police.
CAMBIO is revealing the contract with the SAE that permits Palomino’s family business to rent four ranches, including the Hacienda La Granada in Simijaco, Cundinamarca Department, where Pedro Orejas raised saddle horses of Spanish ancestry, and grazed cattle for meat and milk. Before the ranch was seized, it was titled to Salvador Rincón Castillo, the brother of the extradited drug boss, and who, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, was part of Pedro Orejas’ criminal organization.
The rental contract was signed with the PAAR Consulting Group SAS, a company that gets its name from the first letters of the surnames Palomino and Ardila. The General’s wife is named Eva Ardila. The society was incorporated on January 26, 2016, when Palomino was still Director of the National Police. At first his sons, Iván Andrés, Juan Sebastián, and José David Palomino Ardila, appeared as partners. On December 14, 2018, the already retired Rodolfo Bautista Palomino López presided over an assembly of stockholders of the society, and became the company’s legal representative.
The contract with SAE was signed by General Palomino along with Karol Zulith González Prieto, as SAE regional manager. As a jointly and severally liable debtor of the Palomino business, and also as the Director of Highways, appeared the executive of La Macarena Shipping and the former President of the Council of Chíquinquirá, Ángela Marcela Cardona. The company would pay a little more than 8 million pesos (roughly USD $1,600 at today’s rates) per month for the jewel in the crown of Pedro Orejas. The rental agreement lasts four years.
When CAMBIO consulted him, General Rodolfo Palomino first responded “What have I got to do with this?” and later asked, “Are you an administrative authority or from a control agency?” Subsequently he explained that “I’m not a public servant anymore; for many years I was available 24 hours a day.” Then he admitted that there is a contract, that he is in the process of taking over the property; that there was nothing illegal, and he’s thinking of dedicating himself to what he called his “milk microbusiness”. He explained that he had bought the first cows with credit from a bank.
The Granada ranch is part of the so-called “list of élite haciendas” that, according to sources consulted by CAMBIO, was managed until a few days ago by then-Vice President of SAE’s real and other property, Leidy Constanza Cifuentes. According to these sources, she herself had offered the coveted property to the retired General. Attorney Cifuentes was one of the officials closest to the former President of the SAE, Andrés Dávila, who appointed her and maintained her in the position in spite of the fact that she had been accused in the media of having turned properties over to Jesús Antonio Martínez Goyeneche, with whom she had been romantically involved. She denies those accusations and says that she was never in an affectionate relationship with the trustee, who is also the brother of Diego José Martínez Goyeneche, the former commander of the Tolima Bloc of the paramilitaries.
According to a source in the SAE, when an official commented to General Palomino that the Petro administration would be giving preference to the campesinos in turning over seized properties, the high official answered, “ That’s right. I’m a campesino.”