BOGOTA – A former senator arrested in connection with a sprawling corruption case involving Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht alleges that the manager of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’s 2014 re-election campaign received nearly $1 million from the scheme, the Andean nation’s attorney general said on Wednesday.
Colombian former Sen. Otto Bula has testified that he received $1 million intended for Roberto Prieto, of which he took 10 percent as a commission, Nestor Humberto Martinez said at a press conference, adding that the Attorney General’s Office has no evidence that that amount of money made its way to Santos’ campaign.
“It will be up to the National Electoral Council (CNE) to investigate this matter,” the attorney general said.
Santos responded to the allegations on Twitter, urging the CNE to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation that sheds light on the alleged illegal campaign contributions by Odebrecht.
Salvador, Brazil-based Odebrecht and its petrochemical unit, Sao Paulo-based Braskem, reached a settlement in December with the United States’ Department of Justice, pleading guilty to schemes to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials around the world.
As part of the settlement, Odebrecht and Braskem 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 from the schemes.
In the case of Colombia, US prosecutors accused Odebrecht of paying more than $11 million in bribes between 2009 and 2014, saying the company realized benefits totaling more than $50 million as a result of the corrupt payments.
Investigations in Colombia have focused on multi-million-dollar contracts Odebrecht was awarded for construction of the still-unfinished Ruta del Sol II highway, which will link central Colombia with the northern coast, and for a project to improve the navigability of Colombia’s main river, the Magdalena.
Colombia’s former deputy transportation minister, Gabriel Garcia Morales, has pleaded guilty to accepting $6.5 million in bribes in connection with Ruta del Sol II, while Bula, according to the AG’s office, received $4.6 million in bribes related to that same project.
Colombian media has reported in recent days that Bula is cooperating with prosecutors.
Bula did not directly implicate Santos in the potentially illegal campaign financing, according to the attorney general, who added that the former senator also did not provide specific documents that would allow them to corroborate the alleged delivery of funds to Prieto via a third party identified as Andres Giraldo.
Prosecutors also are investigating alleged payments by Odebrecht to the campaign of Santos’ rival in the 2014 elections – Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, a close ally of Santos’ predecessor and political arch-rival, Alvaro Uribe.