Colombia prosecutors weigh immunity for ex-officials in government corruption case

By Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Two former officials of Colombia's National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD) have requested immunity in exchange for their cooperation with prosecutors investigating a corruption scandal, the attorney general's office said on Tuesday.

Both Olmedo Lopez, the UNGRD's former director, and former deputy director Sneyder Pinilla, who are accused of ties to suspicious purchases of water tankers for 46.8 billion pesos ($12 million), said via their lawyers that they were willing to testify in exchange for immunity and protection.

The tankers - trucks designed to transport drinking water - were supposedly bought to supply remote areas of Colombia's La Guajira province with water.

"The prosecutor's office hopes that Olmedo Lopez and Sneyder Pinilla keep their appointment with the legal system ... to evaluate the degree of collaboration and the evidence they can provide," the attorney general's office said in a message posted on X.

The scandal has engulfed the government of leftist President Gustavo Petro, leading to the resignation of one of the Colombian leader's closest allies, Sandra Ortiz, who stepped down as presidential advisor for Colombia's regions.

According to Pinilla, Senate President Ivan Name and Chamber of Representatives President Andres Calle received huge sums of money to help push the president's social and economic reforms through Congress.

Both Name and Calle deny the accusations.

Petro accused the former officials of trying to save themselves by casting aspersions elsewhere and denied trying to pay off members of Congress in exchange of approving the reforms, and said the accusations were an attempt to overthrow his government.

"That's false and is connected to a coup strategy," Petro said on Monday during a government event.

($1 = 3,894.23 Colombian pesos)

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Bill Berkrot)