Crime & Justice

Current, former officials charged in Colombian corruption scandal

Cartagena, Colombia, Aug 17 (EFE).- Colombia’s attorney general said here Thursday that 60 people, including 33 current and former government officials, will be indicted for corruption in the awarding of a highway project to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

Prosecutors “have uncovered the criminal mechanism” whereby the multinational created a department “exclusively dedicated to the distribution of bribes,” Francisco Barbosa said at a press conference in Cartagena.

In Colombia, he said, the mechanism operated through Cabinet ministers and agency directors, lawmakers, lobbyists, and contractors, among others.

That network influenced the awarding of the contract for the Ruta del Sol II highway, intended to connect central Colombia with the Caribbean coast, the attorney general said.

The resulting irregularities cost the Colombian government roughly $38.6 million, according to Barbosa.

Among the Colombians who will face charges is Luis Fernando Andrade, former director of the National Infrastructure Agency (ANI).

Also to be charged are Marcelo Odebrecht, the company’s CEO from 2008-2015, and other Brazilian nationals accused of paying nearly $20 million in bribes to obtain the highway contract in 2009.

The contract was cancelled in 2017 after the Brazilian builder and its petrochemical unit, Braskem, admitted to paying bribes as part of a settlement with prosecutors in the United States, Brazil, and Switzerland.

The companies agreed to pay at least $3.5 billion to resolve charges arising out of bid-rigging schemes that began as early as 2001 and involved the payment of hundreds of millions of dollars to officials in more than a dozen countries.

Barbosa’s announcement of additional indictments followed comments on the scandal by President Gustavo Petro.

“We lost 2 trillion pesos ($487 million) and millions of dollars were taken and they bribed politicians and politicians and politicians and the Ruta del Sol II does not exist today,” the president said earlier this week.

Petro also ordered the foreign ministry “to use all means of judicial collaboration with the governments of the US and Brazil to establish the damages and reparations that the confession of Grupo Aval generates for the Colombian state.”

Last week, the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said that Grupo Aval and its banking subsidiary, Corficolombiana, were charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) for having paid bribes in connection with the Ruta del Sol II project.

Grupo Aval, whose shares trade on the New York Stock Exchange, agreed to pay $40 million to settle the SEC charges.

EFE joc-ime/dr

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