SANTO DOMINGO – Dominican Judge Francisco Ortega on Tuesday resumed the hearing to look into the bribery case involving a group of officials – including a government minister, politicians and local businessmen – and Brazil’s Odebrecht construction firm.
Ortega resumed the hearing after postponing it twice last week so that attorneys for the accused could receive and review copies of the indictment.
The hearing was held in the Supreme Court chambers, where the accused were transported under heavy security from the Palace of Justice in downtown Santo Domingo where they have been held since May 29.
The Public Ministry has asked that the defendants be held for 18 months pending trial.
Among the 10 defendants are Industry and Trade Minister Temistocles Montas and the chairman of the main opposition PRM party, Andres Bautista, along with businessman Angel Rondon, the former representative for Odebrecht and designated by the Public Ministry as the person who received and distributed the bribes.
Two senators from the governing PLD party and a PRM lawmaker are also under indictment but they have not been arrested while their respective legislative chambers decide whether or not to rescind their parliamentary immunity.
Another defendant is engineer Bernardo Castellanos, who is abroad and has said he will return to face the charges against him, although he has not done so yet.
The members of the group have all separately denied any links with the case, although they are charged with bribery, criminal association, illicit enrichment, money laundering and other crimes.
Shortly after his arrest, Montas said that in 16 years as a public official, he “had never been connected directly or indirectly with unseemly or illegal actions.”
The minister also put his Cabinet post at the disposal of President Danilo Medina, who has not commented publicly on the accusations against Montas.
In April, Odebrecht agreed to pay the Dominican government $184 million – double the amount of the bribes the firm paid between 2001-2014 to assorted officials to secure public works contracts – to settle the case.
Odebrecht also agreed to reveal the names of the individuals who accepted bribes in exchange for its employees not being charged with crimes in the Caribbean nation.