Former Colombian Transportation Official Arrested for Allegedly Taking $6.5 Million USD Bribe from Odebrecht
Former Colombian transportation official Gabriel García Morales was arrested this weekend by authorities for allegedly taking a $6.5 million USD bribe from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht SA.
Law enforcement officials claim that the former deputy transport minister received the illicit sum via offshore accounts maintained by a division of the firm that Odebrecht has admitted was responsible for paying out hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes across the region over the past decade.
According to Colombian Attorney General Néstor Humberto Martínez, Garcia was involved in awarding a large road project contract in 2009 or 2010 while serving in the administration of former President Álvaro Uribe. He allegedly took the cash in exchange for turning the Ruta del Sol contract-awarding process into a one-bid competition, reported the Wall Street Journal.
In a mammoth $4.5 billion USD settlement with authorities in the United States, Brazil, and Switzerland, Odebrecht admitted to having paid some $11 million USD in bribes in Colombia in an attempt to secure infrastructure deals. In all, the firm handed out nearly $440 million USD in bribes while trying to expand its international operations. The Salvador-based engineering giant, according to Humberto, will pay $11 million to Colombia for the damage.
Prior to detaining Garcia, the attorney general’s office announced on Thursday, January 12, that it was widening an investigation based upon information from U.S. authorities. It has conducted an inspection of several public institutions in search of evidence along with assistance from anti-corruption prosecutors and investigators from the National Prosecutor’s Office.
The attorney general said that the investigation will continue looking into the remainder of the approximately $4.5 million USD made in bribes, which involved the National Infrastructure Agency during the tenure of current President Juan Manuel Santos.
Other countries in the region are engaged in similar investigations and discussions with Odebrecht. Last week, the company agreed with Peruvian authorities to name the officials who accepted some $29 million USD in bribes over the past decade. Those payments helped in its efforts to secure, among other bids, a contract for the large Souther Gas Pipeline in the country.