Wed, Apr 03, 2019 - Page 7 News List

Colombia jails social media influencer

AP, BOGOTA

Jenny Ambuila lived a lavish lifestyle in Miami that included frequent trips to designer stores, luxury vacations in Europe and jaunts around town in a red Lamborghini.

However, the fairy tale has ended abruptly for the 26-year-old social media influencer.

The University of Miami graduate was on Friday last week arrested while on vacation in Colombia, along with her parents and another customs official.

Prosecutors said that the arrests could help them untangle a large web of corruption at the Colombian port of Buenaventura, where Ambuila’s father worked as a mid-level customs officer and allegedly pocketed millions of dollars in exchange for letting untaxed goods pass into the country.

“This is a fundamental case in our fight against smuggling,” Colombian prosecutor Andres Jimenez told a local radio station. “We are going after all of this corrupt structure and the resources behind them.”

The investigation underscores attempts to stop smuggling in Colombia before markets in the country are flooded with contraband, Jimenez said.

He claimed that Omar Ambuila, who earned a modest monthly salary of US$3,000 as a ports inspector, received at least US$600,000 in bribes since 2012 in overseas payments that have been traced by investigators, but could have received much more.

Some of the illicit funds were used to send Ambuila’s daughter to the University of Miami, where she studied from 2013 to 2017, earning a bachelor’s degree in finance, Jimenez said.

Jenny Ambuila enjoyed a lifestyle that went well beyond her status as a college student, shopping regularly at designer stores like Gucci and Dolce & Gabanna, while taking luxury vacations to Milan, Italy, and Paris.

She regularly shared photographs of her extravagant lifestyle on Instagram and Facebook, where she describes herself as a venture capitalist, foreign-exchange trader and social media influencer.

However, her penchant for showing off her lifestyle also led to her family’s troubles.

As investigators looked into her social media profiles, they also began to investigate some of Jenny Ambuila’s purchases, including her 2017 acquisition of a Lamborghini Huracan Spyder, worth more than US$300,000, Jimenez said.

Ambuila shared photographs and videos of herself on Facebook posing next to the red sports car, which had her Instagram handle inscribed above its trunk.

She also bought a Porsche Cayenne while living in Miami.

“People assume that because they can’t make it you can’t make it either,” Jenny Ambuila wrote in a May 2017 Facebook post accompanied by a photograph of the Lamborghini. “Prove them wrong.”

Jenny Ambuila, who is under house arrest in Colombia, did not immediately respond to requests for comment via social media, but she has told authorities that she financed her luxury purchases by developing businesses that included an ice cream shop and a foreign-exchange trading service.

“She did set up some companies on paper,” Jimenez said. “But they did not make enough earnings to afford her that type of lifestyle.”

She has been charged with money laundering. Her father and her mother are in prison on additional charges of aiding smugglers and corruption.

Investigators are hoping to close in on other alleged members of Buenaventura’s smuggling network in the next few months, Jimenez said.

“The amount of money that smuggling moves in this country is huge,” Jimenez said. “We are hoping this investigation goes all the way to the top.”

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