March 16, 1996 in Nation/World

Drug Probe Expands To Top Samper Aides

Compiled From Wire Services

All three members of President Ernesto Samper’s innermost circle of aides were formally advised Friday that they had fallen under criminal investigation in the ever-expanding probe of Cali cartel influence in the government.

The three men all hold prominent Cabinet posts and were among the top staff of Samper’s campaign team in 1994 when he is accused of receiving more than $6 million in donations from the cocaine cartel.

Prosecutors said the probe into the criminal donations and a subsequent coverup had broadened to include Interior Minister Horacio Serpa, Foreign Minister Rodrigo Pardo and Communications Minister Juan Manuel Turbay.

The investigation’s growing shadow over the presidential palace will make it tougher for the embattled 45-year-old Samper to govern effectively.

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