Sunday

26th Feb 2017

Commission official suspected of staging own kidnap in Colombia

A European Commission official responsible for development projects in Colombia is under suspicion of having staged his own kidnap in April.

Carlos Ayala-Saavedra, a 59 year old Bolivian turned Spanish national, is being investigated by the European Commission and the Colombian authorities for allegedly staging his own kidnap to extort a €10 million ransom from the EU's coffers.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The story broke this week in the Colombian press, with the mainstream magazine Cambio publishing a three-page special on "the Spanish man's novel".

According to the Colombian and the Spanish press, Mr Ayala-Saavedra was allegedly kidnapped, together with his Colombian girlfriend Vergara Monsalve on the April 15 in the city of Cicuta, on the border with Venezuela, a coca-rich territory fought over by the Marxist FARC and the counter-revolutionary paramilitary forces.

He went there on an official mission to perform a social assessment study on the region's poor, writes the Spanish daily ABC.

According to Cambio, he was later found unharmed by Venezuelan soldiers on May 22 in Los Tres Pajaros, in the state of Apure, Venezuela, claiming he had escaped his captors and walked all night trough the jungle.

The soldiers escorted him to their base, until the head of the EU delegation in Colombia, Adrianus Koetsenruijter, came to pick him up. He was later transferred to Bogota and after that to Brussels for further interrogation.

Ms Monsalve was found earlier - on April 29 - and delivered, also unharmed, to a Red Cross official in Colombia.

When Colombian authorities interrogated Mr Ayala-Saavedra, they found many inconsistencies between his and Ms Monsalve's statements, and also found it suspicious that he was found without a scratch after claiming to have walked all night though the jungle to evade his captors.

Scamming the Commission

According to ABC, many foreign officials working in Colombia - a country where kidnapping is widespread - have generous insurance covering these situations.

Mr Ayala-Saavedra "wanted to retire with that money", a Colombian police source said to the Spanish paper.

According to Cambio magazine, the Colombian authorities found that Mr Ayala-Saavedra was being subject to an internal investigation over alleged misappropriation of funds from the Bogota office, and found documents proving that he had sold a Toyota Lexus with diplomatic plates, and pocketed the money.

"We got the feeling that his days as a European Commission official were counted", added a source close to the Colombian investigators, quoted in the magazine.

A joint account opened by Mr Ayala-Saavedra and his girlfriend has been frozen by the authorities.

Meeting the captors

A European Commission official met with the FARC soldiers, who named a ten million euro price for Mr Ayala-Saavedra's "life", and with whom he maintained telephone contact in the days after, writes Cambio.

The official later informed the rebels that Brussels would not pay a ransom.

Speaking to the press on Wednesday (29 June), a European Commission spokesperson said an internal investigation is on the way and a report will be submitted "to the appropriate authorities" once it is complete.

"At the moment the commission cannot draw any conclusions, and, until proven guilty, everybody is innocent", she underlined.

Mr Ayala-Saavedra is currently on sick leave.

Commission man goes missing in Colombia

A European Commission official responsible for development projects at the EU's Colombia and Ecuador mission has been missing for the past ten days.

Column / Health Matters

The yin and yang of traditional Chinese medicine

Can traditional medicine help the modern European patient? Malta has signed an agreement with China that would increase the provision of traditional Chinese medicine to its citizens.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Searching for a voice and a standard bearer

As Britons come to terms with the reality of Brexit many Remainers are now listless, looking for someone to present a viable alternative to Theresa May's dominance

Opinion

The Lake Chad Basin crisis

With no end in sight to the "tragedy", humanitarian agencies must call for international political and security engagement, the UN's head of migration says.

Column / Brexit Briefing

Searching for a voice and a standard bearer

As Britons come to terms with the reality of Brexit many Remainers are now listless, looking for someone to present a viable alternative to Theresa May's dominance

News in Brief

  1. Spanish court jails former IMF chief Rato
  2. Macron proposes Nordic-style economic model for France
  3. Germany posts record high budget surplus
  4. Labour ousts Ukip in Brexit homeland
  5. Dutch lower house approves EU-Ukraine treaty
  6. WTO says Russian pork ban was illegal
  7. Belgian nuclear plant made 'significant progress' on safety
  8. Report: Commission gauging EU support for Poland sanctions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EURORDISJoin Rare Disease Day and Help Advocate for More Research on Rare Diseases
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStudents Who Are Considered Fit Get Better Grades in School
  3. QS World MBA TourMeet with Leading International Business Schools in Paris on March 4th
  4. Malta EU 2017Economic Governance: Agreement Reached on Structural Reform Support Programme for Member States
  5. Socialists & DemocratsWomen Have to Work Ten Years Longer to Match Lifetime Earnings of Men
  6. Counter BalanceTrans-Adriatic Pipeline Is a Major Risk for Banks, Warns New Analysis
  7. Martens CentreEU and US Migration Policies Compared: Join the Debate on February 28th
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTechnology and Data Flows - Shaping the Society of Tomorrow
  9. UNICEFNearly 1.4 Million Children at Risk of Death as Famine Looms Across Africa and Yemen
  10. Malta EU 2017End of Roaming Fees: Council Reaches Agreement on Wholesale Caps
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Innovation House Opens in New York to Help Startups Access US Market
  12. Centre Maurits CoppietersMinorities and Migrations