Nicolás Petro, Son of Colombian President, Charged with Money Laundering

Nicolás Petro Burgos faces money laundering charges amid allegations by ex-wife Day Vásquez, shaking the political landscape.

In a startling revelation that sent shockwaves through Colombia’s political landscape, the Attorney General’s Office announced on Saturday morning, July 29, the arrest of Nicolás Petro Burgos, the son of Colombian President Gustavo Petro, and Day Vásquez, his ex-wife. The two were apprehended on charges of money laundering and illicit enrichment, marking the first time in the nation’s history that an incumbent president’s son has been arrested.

According to a statement released by the judicial body, the arrest of Nicolás Petro, who is currently serving as deputy of the Department of Atlántico, took place around 6:00 a.m. on Saturday. The arrest is the latest development in an ongoing investigation against him following accusations by his ex-wife, Day Vásquez, of receiving “dirty money” during his father’s presidential campaign. She alleges that these funds were misappropriated for personal use.

Nicolás Petro Burgos fue capturado por la Fiscalía por lavado de activos. / Foto: redes sociales
Nicolás Petro Burgos was captured by the Prosecutor’s Office for money laundering / Photo: social networks

The Prosecutor’s Statement and Reactions

“The Attorney General’s Office of the Nation is pleased to inform you that today July 29, 2023, around 06:00 hours, in compliance with the provisions of the Municipal Criminal Court 16 with Function of Guarantees Control of Bogota, the arrest warrants issued against Nicolás Fernando Petro Burgos, for the crimes of money laundering and illicit enrichment and Daysuris del Carmen Vásquez Castro for the crimes of money laundering and violation of personal data for events that occurred from 2022 to date,” reads the statement shared by the Prosecutor’s Office.

Reactions to the arrest of Nicolás Petro Burgos were swift. One of the first to comment was a former senator and current mayoral candidate for Bogota, Gustavo Bolívar. Through his Twitter account, Bolívar confirmed that Petro Burgos is indeed the first son of a sitting president to be arrested. However, he stressed that this was “not because the sons of other presidents have not committed crimes, but because no other president allows justice to act independently and without pressure as @PetroGustavo does.”

The following is the press release from the judicial body:

Comunicado de la Fiscalía General de la Nación de la captura de Nicolás Petro y Day Vásquez. /Fiscalía General de la Nación
Press release from the Attorney General’s Office on the arrest of Nicolás Petro and Day Vásquez. /Attorney General’s Office
Imagen de Gustavo Petro, presidente de Colombia, y su hijo Nicolás Petro Burgos, quien fue capturado por lavado de activos./ Foto: Colprensa
Image of Gustavo Petro, president of Colombia, and his son Nicolás Petro Burgos, who was captured for money laundering.

The Allegations

An extensive investigation was launched against Nicolás Petro following the allegations by his ex-wife. Day Vásquez claimed that Nicolás received 600 million pesos from former drug trafficker Santander Lopesierra, also known as the ‘Marlboro Man,’ and an additional 400 million pesos from the son of controversial figure ‘Turco’ Hilsaca. According to Vásquez, the money was intended for Petro’s 2022 presidential campaign. However, she accuses Nicolás of diverting the funds to purchase a luxury home in Barranquilla worth 1.6 billion pesos.

The Prosecutor’s Office detailed that both Petro Burgos and Vásquez Castro will be placed at the disposal of a Municipal Criminal Judge with the Function of Control of Guarantees. This judge will be in charge of requesting the “procedures of search, capture, and seizure of evidentiary material elements.” After Petro Burgos and Vásquez are charged, the Prosecutor’s Office will request restrictive measures of liberty for both.

Below the Trino of the national leader:

Trino Gustavo Petro sobre la captura de su hijo Nicolás Petro Burgos. Foto: Twitter Gustavo Petro
Trino Gustavo Petro on the capture of his son Nicolás Petro Burgos. Photo: Twitter Gustavo Petro


Reactions to the news of the capture of President Gustavo Petro’s son, Nicolás Petro Burgos, were not long in coming. One of the first to speak out was the former senator and current candidate for Mayor of Bogota, Gustavo Bolivar.

Through his Twitter account, Bolívar – one of the people closest to the Colombian head of state – confirmed that Petro Burgos thus becomes the first son of a sitting president to be captured. However, he clarified that the decision is “not because the sons of other presidents have not committed crimes, but because no other president allows justice to act independently and without pressure as @PetroGustavo does”.

Trino Gustavo Bolívar captura Nicolás Petro Burgos. /Foto: Twitter Gustavo Bolívar
Trino Gustavo Bolívar captures Nicolás Petro Burgos /Photo: Twitter Gustavo Bolívar

WhatsApp Revelations and Implications

Vásquez provided over 1,600 pages of WhatsApp chats between her and Nicolás to the magazine Semana, which reveal numerous alarming conversations about moving large amounts of cash. Nicolás insisted the money could only be used for the house, expressing concern about raising suspicions and even requesting Vásquez not to discuss finances in front of his mother.

The couple discussed transporting hundreds of millions of pesos from Bogotá to Barranquilla using relatives and associates to avoid detection at airports. Nicolás wanted the house registered under someone else’s name. After Petro’s election, Nicolás hinted at lobbying for “something big” related to the company Monómeros. Vásquez warned about legal risks, but Nicolás said he had to lobby and invest in maintaining their lifestyle.

The scandal has cast a dark cloud over President Petro’s administration months into his term. Nicolás denies any wrongdoing but faces intense scrutiny as prosecutors pursue serious corruption charges against the president’s son.

Jota Pe Hernández se pronunció sobre la captura de Nicolás Petro Burgos. Foto: Twitter Jota Pe Hernández
Jota Pe Hernández commented on the capture of Nicolás Petro Burgos. Photo: Twitter Jota Pe Hernández

A Father’s Response

The news of Nicolás Petro Burgos’ arrest did not go unnoticed by his father, President Gustavo Petro. Through his Twitter account, the Colombian head of state expressed his personal pain at his son’s self-destruction and impending incarceration. However, he affirmed that as president, he would provide all necessary support to the Prosecutor’s Office to “proceed according to the law.”

Addressing his son, the President wrote: “I wish my son luck and strength. May these events forge his character, and may he reflect on his own mistakes.” He concluded by stating he would not interfere with or pressure the Attorney General’s decisions, allowing the law to guide the process freely.

The Future Awaits

As the dust begins to settle, all eyes are on the Colombian judiciary. The arrest of Nicolás Petro Burgos and Day Vásquez, their upcoming trials, and the potential implications for President Gustavo Petro’s administration have brought the nation to a standstill. It remains to be seen how these events will unfold and what impact they will have on Colombia’s political landscape.