The former health secretary of Colombia’s capital Bogota, investigated for taking part in a $500 million embezzlement scheme, told prosecutors that five congressmen, including the congress president, received kickbacks for awarding public contracts.
According to former Health Secretary Hector Zambrano, the Congress President, Senator Juan Fernando Cristo, and his predecessor, Senator Roy Barreras, both were involved in the paying of illegal kickbacks for the unlawful awarding of public contracts to private contractors. Three more congressmen and two jailed former lawmakers were also implicated in the scandal.
Zambrano implicated the congressmen in the so-called “contract carousel” that has already spurred the incarceration of the capital’s former mayor, Samuel Moreno, his brother, former Senator Ivan Moreno, and former House Representative German Olano.
All are accused of having been part in a network of politicians, public officials and private contractors that secured the embezzlement of half a billion dollars during the Moreno administration (2008-2011) in schemes affecting public works contracts to ambulance services.
Additionally, Zambrano told the prosecutors that 18 sitting and former members of Bogota’s 45-seat city council were involved in the massive embezzlement scheme.
In a published response, the president of Congress denied any implication in the scandal that has been looming over Bogota’s political class for years.
“I am unaware of any fact related to the alleged claims of Mr. Zambrano. Because of this I have asked the Prosecutor General’s Office to inform the country on the matter.”
Last year, 10 months before being named Congress President, the Prosecutor General announced a preliminary criminal investigation against Cristo for his alleged ties to paramilitary groups. This investigation did not impede his colleagues from choosing the lawmaker to be the Congress’ president.