Odebrecht SA, the Brazilian construction giant, paid at least $32.5 million in bribes in Colombia, three times the amount confessed almost two years ago when he admitted to having taken to out one of the biggest in corporate history bribery schemes, said the Attorney general of Colombia.
In an interview in his office in Bogota, the prosecutor general Néstor Humberto Martínez described a scandal deeper and more widespread than the supported by Odebrecht in an agreement with the Brazilian and U.S. authorities in 2016. That agreement listed $11.1 million in bribes paid to win two Colombian infrastructure projects as part of a plot that struck a dozen countries in America and Africa. MARTINEZ said that the $11.1 million came from Brazil and the rest of the Colombian contracts, which increases the new total to $32.5 million.
Odebrecht bribed dozens of officials and Colombian executives to obtain six contracts with the Government from 2009 to 2014, Martinez said. Nearly three dozen people have already been charged and five convicted, including a former Senator and a former Deputy Minister. The prosecution also presented evidence to the Supreme Court against nine other political.
$3,500 million exceptional global reach of Odebrecht bribery emerged in 2016 when the company reached a $3,500 million agreement with American, Brazilian and Swiss authorities. He admitted having paid US$ 788 million in a dozen countries by more than 100 contracts in what the U.S. Justice Department called the largest case of foreign corruption in the history.
Since then, the company has reached agreements with several Latin American, including Governments of the Dominican Republic, Peru and Panama. In Colombia, the case has been extended and Odebrecht has given to understand that the delay is the result of self-defense. In addition, Odebrecht is seeking compensation of up to US$ 1,300 million for the work that made the nation before stopping by the bribery scandal’s largest roadside. Hearings in that case were postponed to September 11.
MARTINEZ said that the investigation has been extended so long because it is complex and deep, and Colombia wanted to do their own research. Only in the region, Colombia rejected offers from Brazil to share evidence because they came with the condition that neither Odebrecht and its executives could be involved in the crimes.
«Colombia was the only country that did not accept to receive evidence from the Brazilian prosecutors,» he said. «That’s that we could bring this research to the point where it is. That is why there are three Brazilians accused with pending arrest warrants».
The three – Amilton Hideaki Sendai, Eder Paolo Ferracuti and Marcio Marangoni – all occupied posts in Odebrecht or a subsidiary and is believed to be in Brazil, prosecutors said.
Odebrecht Colombia calls seeking comment were not answered.
Conflict of interests?
Martinez, Member of the Cabinet in three Colombian Governments, has been accused of conflict of interest in the case because before becoming attorney general in 2016 was a key lawyer for Grupo Aval, the parent company of Odebrecht Colombian partner in one of your contracts. The implication has been that he is protecting his former employer.
Grupo Aval, Colombia’s largest banking group and controlled by Luis Carlos Sarmiento Angulo, teamed up in 2010 with Odebrecht to build a section of a 1,000 km (621 miles) Highway called Ruta del Sol which connects Bogotá region with the coast of the Caribbean. He made it through the company controlling Corficolombiana SA. Solarte, a family construction company, also acquired a minority stake.
Martinez rejected the accusation of conflict of interest. He said that on two occasions in which Odebrecht cases have passed through his office, be it recusó, with permission of the Court. He showed a copy of one of these judicial decisions, with date of June 21. MARTINEZ said they would also be aside for future cases of Odebrecht.
María Paulina Riveros, the general Durango that has replaced Martinez, said that one of those arrested is José Elías Melo, former President of Corficolombiana. He is expected that the trial of Melo, who is under house arrest, will start this month.
«I am surprised that there is a perception of different treatment for those linked to the case,» said Riveros. Prosecutors have accused «people known as Mr. Melo, as well as members of Congress».
HomeStretch Riveros said that the case against Odebrecht is in its final stretch and that most of the investigation should conclude before year’s end.
Odebrecht was building Ruta del Sol and had other five contracts in Colombia. Prosecutors said that they set up fictitious companies that presented invoices for works that were never made, used the profits to pay for expenses and intermediaries and channeled what remained in bribes.
The scheme began to unfold when prosecutors received the cooperation of the former Senator Otto Nicolas Bula Bula and ex-Minister of transportation, Gabriel Garcia Morales, both defendants.
«It was like a chain,» said Riveros. «When they began to cooperate, all of these other lines of research began to reveal himself».