Colombia

Odebrecht scandal putting unprecedented pressure on Colombia’s corrupt politics

With both the president and his opposition rival in the last elections implicated, the fallout from the Odebrecht corruption scandal in Colombia could cause an unexpected purge in Colombia’s corruption-ridden political establishment.

The Odebracht bribery scandal that was initially alleged by US judicial authorities, in Colombia is growing as bribery allegations implicate more and more top politicians and high-ranking officials.

The arrests made last year in relation to the scandal involving Brazil’s largest engineering firm were just the tip of the iceberg, revealed Colombia’s Prosecutor General, Nestor Humberto Martinez, ironically a former attorney for one of Odebrecht’s implicated subsidiaries.

To make the scope of the growing scandal somewhat clear, these are the people implicated in the scandal implicating both the administration of Juan Manuel Santos and that of opposition leader Alvaro Uribe.

Alvaro Uribe presidency (2002 – 2010)

Gabriel Garcia (deputy transport minister)

The former Deputy Minister of Transport and director of the National Institute of Concessions (INCO) allegedly received $6.5 million in bribes from Odebrecht during the awarding of a 2009 roadway contract for Section Two of the Ruta del Sol highway, which connects central Colombia with the Caribbean coast.

He was the first person to be arrested in connection to investigations into the Odebrecht corruption scandal and is currently being held at La Picota prison in the Colombian capital of Bogota.

Oscar Ivan Zuluaga (finance minister)

Former Finance Minister Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, also the 2014 presidential candidate for Uribe’s Democratic Center party, has been accused of having received $1.6 million in campaign contributions from Odebrecht.

These accusations led to him withdrawing his candidacy for the 2018 elections in early March 2017, and he released a statement saying, “I led an honorable campaign; I am at the disposal of the authorities to account for all my actions, as I have always done in my public life. Today, above all political considerations, my priority is the tranquility and good name of my family.”

Jose Elias Melo Acosta (businessman)

Jose Elias Melo is the former president of holding company Corficolombiana and has been implicated in the bribery of the aforementioned minister. Corficolombiana formed part of the Ruta del Sol Concession along with Odebrecht and Grupo Solarte. Together, these groups were in charge of building a 330-mile long section of the Ruta del Sol highway between Puerto Salgar and San Roque.

Following a formal interrogation in January of this year, the prosecution provided evidence that allegedly proves Melo’s participation and knowledge of the facts in the Gabriel Garcia case.

Juan Ricardo Noero (Deputy Minister of Transport)

Another former Deputy Minister of Transport, Juan Ricardo Noero, was implicated for his knowledge of the bribery of Gabriel Garcia.

In 2010, Noero was named CEO of Pacific Infrastructure, another group linked to the Ruta del Sol highway, and the prosecution argues that in his role at Pacific Infrastructure he was aware of the Odebrecht corruption.

Enrique Ghisays and Eduardo Assad (businessmen)

Former Minister Gabriel Garcia Morales laundered the $6.5 million he received from Odebrecht through a Panamanian firm called Lurion Trading.

This is where Enrique Ghisays enters the scene, having already accepted charges for money laundering, having established the Panamanian firm along with…

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