Sunday

19th Nov 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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

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.

Agenda

EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK

EU ministers will vote on where to relocate two EU agencies from the UK, while later EU leaders will host six eastern European countries in Brussels. Former Bosnian Serb commander Ratko Mladic awaits his verdict in the Hague.

Opinion

Mind the gap: inequality in our cities

Minimum wages, 'living' wages and a universal basic income are all part of the ongoing mix to find ways to reduce social inequality across the EU.

News in Brief

  1. Bonn climate talks extend into Friday evening
  2. UK needs to move on Brexit by early December, Tusk says
  3. Puigdemont extradition decision postponed to December
  4. Ireland wants written UK guarantees to avoid hard border
  5. US did not obstruct climate talks, says German minister
  6. EU signs social declaration
  7. Puigdemont to be heard by Belgian judges
  8. Steep fall in migrants reaching EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  2. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  4. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  5. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  6. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  9. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  10. World Vision20 November: Exchange of Views at the EP on Children Affected by the Syria Crisis
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length
  2. EU leaders make pledge on social issues after populist backlash
  3. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  4. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  5. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities
  6. Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks
  7. Davis outlines UK vision on Brexit in Berlin
  8. German coalition talks in near collapse