Colombian Political Operative And Hacker Arrested For Sabotaging Peace Talks

Authorities arrested a suspected hacker for trying to obtain information to sabotage government peace talks with Colombia's biggest rebel movement, the chief prosecutor's office said Tuesday.

The announcement described Andres Sepulveda as the leader of a spying ring that operated out of an office raided over the past two days in a tony Bogota neighborhood.

The case has political overtones, coming less than three weeks before Colombia's presidential election.

Investigators said they had reason to believe that President Juan Manuel Santos' email might have been intercepted, but they provided no details.

Sepulveda was a collaborator on the campaign of Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, one of Santos' toughest rivals in his bid to win re-election May 25.

Zuluaga, a former finance chief, acknowledged on Tuesday that Sepulveda had been providing information security and social networking services to his campaign since February. But he condemned any illegal actions by the contractor, assuring they had nothing to do with his work for the campaign.

Chief prosecutor Eduardo Montealegre said he had no reason to believe it was anything other than coincidence that Sepulveda was working with the conservative candidate.

Zuluaga hinted the arrest might be an effort to distract Colombians from another campaign scandal: Monday's resignation of Santos' chief campaign strategist, J.J. Rendon, amid allegations that he received $12 million from top drug lords to mediate a negotiated surrender. Rendon denied having taken any money from drug traffickers.

Sepulveda's alleged effort to undermine the government's talks with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia is not the first case of spying on the peace negotiations in Cuba. In February, authorities acting on a media investigation uncovered a secret surveillance center in Colombia's capital tied to the military and from which the electronic communications of government and rebel negotiators were being monitored.

Montealegre said Tuesday that there was no indication that government agencies or the military were connected to Sepulveda's alleged activities.

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