SANTO DOMINGO – The head of the Dominican Republic’s main opposition party said in an interview with EFE that he had been unjustly accused of accepting bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht but was confident that the truth would prevail.
In his first media interview since being arrested on May 29, Andres Bautista, chairman of the Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), said he had never received money from that multinational or any other company in exchange for approving contracts during his tenure in the Senate (where he served as president).
The politician and business leader, who was released on bail on July 11, is accused along with 13 other suspects, including major figures in the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD), of crimes including accepting bribes, criminal conspiracy and money laundering.
He and the other suspects are accused of taking bribes from Angel Rondon, the jailed former Odebrecht commercial representative in the Dominican Republic.
Odebrecht and petrochemical unit Braskem pleaded guilty last December and agreed to pay a combined total penalty of at least $3.5 billion to resolve charges with authorities in the United States, Brazil and Switzerland arising out of their schemes to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials around the world.
As part of that settlement, Odebrecht confessed to paying $92 million in bribes in the Dominican Republic between 2001 and 2014 to win public-works contracts.
That period encompasses the 2000-2004 administration of President Hipolito Mejia of the Dominican Revolutionary Party (PRD) (from which the PRM split off in 2014), as well as the PLD administrations of Leonel Fernandez, who governed from 2004 to 2012, and current President Danilo Medina.
Mejia’s administration acted with full transparency in awarding contracts, according to Bautista.
He also noted that the PRD was only responsible for awarding 6 percent of Odebrecht’s construction and engineering projects in the Dominican Republic, adding that the vast majority of those contracts were reached with PLD administrations.