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  HOME | Colombia (Click here for more)

Colombian President Subpoenaed to Testify in Corruption Probe

BOGOTA – Colombia’s Supreme Court said on Friday that it issued subpoenas to President Juan Manuel Santos and several of his top aides to testify in a case involving a senator accused of taking bribes from Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht.

A Supreme Court source told EFE that Santos and the others had been called to testify as witnesses in the proceedings against Bernardo Miguel Elias Nader, a ruling-party senator representing the Caribbean province of Cordoba who was arrested Thursday in Bogota by order of the high court.

Santos will not testify in person but rather by means of a questionnaire that he will send to the Supreme Court, the source said.

Interior Minister Guillermo Rivera confirmed Friday that Santos and several of his Cabinet members would comply with the subpoenas.

The court agreed to hear the testimony of Santos and several of his ministers and former ministers at the request of Elias’s defense team, according to local media.

Those outlets said the court acceded to the request to learn the circumstances surrounding the signing of a contract with Odebrecht for construction of the Ocaña-Gamarra section of the Ruta del Sol II toll road.

Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin and the ministers of finance and agriculture, Mauricio Cardenas and Aurelio Iragorri, respectively, also will testify in the case, as will former Vice President German Vargas Lleras, ex-Interior Minister Juan Fernando Cristo, erstwhile Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon and others.

Evidence provided to the court appears to show the senator, known as “Ñoño” Elias, and his political allies received nearly 17 billion pesos (some $5.6 million) in bribes related to Odebrecht contracts.

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.

Odebrecht, which admitted in the settlement that the scheme dated back more than a decade and began as early as 2001, was initially believed to have paid $11 million in bribes in Colombia to win public-works contracts.

But Colombian Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martinez said last month that corrupt officials in the Andean nation in fact received a total of $27 million in bribes from the Salvador, Brazil-based engineering giant.

The first person convicted in the Odebrecht case in Colombia was businessman Enrique Ghisays Manzur, who was sentenced to seven years behind bars last month for money laundering and illicit enrichment.

Other business leaders and several politicians also have been arrested.


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