On November 5th, José Ofilio Gurdian Lacayo, an influential Salvadoran businessman, traveled to Colombia on Avianca flight AV 259, from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
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According to his flight plan, upon arriving in Bogotá he would go in transit to take another connecting flight, AV 120, to destination to the city of London, England, where he had to meet an appointment as part of the board of directors of Abra Group, the business holding company linked to the airline Avianca.
José Ofilio Gurdián Lacayo, Sandra Cecilia Lacayo Escapini and Ronald Antonio Lacayo Argüello.
But Gurdian Lacayo ended up imprisoned in the extraditable pavilion of La Picota, after it became effective a red circular from Interpol warning that he has been wanted by authorities in his country for years.
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Crime: one of the greatest environmental disasters, linked to lead contamination of people and a town, generated by an old battery plant owned by his renowned family.
Jose Ofilio Gurdián Lacayo was detained at the El Dorado airport.
Although the case has been handled discreetly, EL TIEMPO has been revealing everything from his capture to the aftermath.
And the most recent chapter takes place in the Attorney General’s Office.
This newspaper established that the Salvadoran’s lawyers sent a letter to the Attorney General, Francisco Barbosa, dated November 23, in which they are asking him to revoke the arrest warrant against Gurdian Lacayo and release him immediately.
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They argue that They are violating his rights and that his retention in El Dorado was illegal. In addition, they raise an underlying technicality that is being evaluated by experts.
This is the extradition document of the Government of El Salvador against Gurdian Lacayo.
The case is so sensitive and complex that Avianca confirmed to EL TIEMPO that the Salvadoran suspended his participation in the board of directors of Abra to dedicate himself to his legal defense.
In San Salvador they discreetly await the decision made in Colombia regarding a character who sold several of his properties and went to live in the United States. when he learned that the investigation was already affecting him and two other members of his family.
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Local sources They assure that the Salvadoran uses his triple nationality (he is also a Nicaraguan citizen and American) to evade responsibilities.
Rights and technicality
The Salvadoran businessman was coming on an Avianca flight from Puerto Rico.
According to Gurdian Lacayo, upon landing in Bogotá all the passengers boarded an Avianca airline bus. that would take them to the international terminal.
But before entering the building, he says that he was approached by Interpol agents, who asked for his passport. Given his reluctance, he claims that they told him that if he did not hand him over, they would take him away by force.
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“Because it was in transit, it did not require entering Colombian territory, as is common in these cases and, Therefore, he should not do immigration procedures,” an informed source told EL TIEMPO and this is what his lawyers argue.
And they add that the Salvadoran states that he was forcibly detained by the Interpol Police and taken to Migration Colombia, where his passport was stamped and his capture was formalized.
This is the moment of the fire at the Record battery plant.
In fact, they state that the retention was made based on an old red Interpol circular from March 2008, related to events dating from between 2003 to 2007: lead contamination.
They also emphasize that the United States did not grant the extradition of Gurdian Lacayo, because the environmental crime that is attributed to him is not among those for which this procedure proceeds.
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And they assure that the same thing happens with the Treaty of 1900, in the case between Colombia and El Salvador.
“Furthermore, the crimes are statute-barred, which makes extradition unfeasible.“says an informed source. And they say that 16 years, 1 month and 11 days have passed since the environmental tragedy occurred, a time that exceeds the maximum penalty for this type of behavior.
This is the red circular against Jose Ofilio Gurdián Lacayo.
But in El Salvador the reading is different. A BBC report from 2010 reported that, in In the rural community Sitio del Niño, located in San Juan Opico, the effects of pollution were evident on behalf of the Record Batteries of El Salvador, which recycled energy accumulators in a plant next to their homes.
The plant belonged to the Lacayo family, which operated with expired permits.
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The initial complaint for The crime of aggravated environmental contamination was filed against the company’s directors: José Ofilio Gurdian Lacayo, Sandra Cecilia Lacayo de Escapini and Ronald Lacayo Arguello.
They all appear in the file as ‘rebellious defendants’ after leaving the country.
“The BBC noted that children in the region suffered from mental retardation, headaches, breathing problems and dwarfism due to the pollution. That does not prescribe”said a local source.
The message from the consulate
This is the statement from Avianca regarding the arrest of Gurdian Lacayo.
The businessman’s defense hopes that the Prosecutor’s Office will define Gurdian’s fate.
According to state, last week the United States consulate in Colombia addressed the national authorities, drawing attention to the case and expressing its assurance that they would act rigorously in the application of the rules that govern extradition..
For now, Gurdian remains in La Picota and completes 26 days deprived of liberty.
(See all the articles from the EL TIEMPO Investigative Unit here)
Avianca, for its part, made it known that this was a substitute for the board of directors of Avianca Holdings, prior to the reorganization of the company under Chapter 11. And they added that he was a member of Abra’s board of directors, but suspended his role on that board to focus on his legal defense.
Today he does not have any administration or management position in the company “although he maintains personal ties with some executives and directors.”
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