Colombia banking giant Grupo Aval facilitated Odebrecht bribes: witness

Both Colombia’s largest banking conglomerate, Grupo Aval, and Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht took part in bribery, according to the businessman who admitted to moving the bribes.

Witness Eduardo Zambrano confirmed claims made by former Odebrecht Colombia director Luis Antonio Bueno that Grupo Aval was complicit in the bribery practices.

Anonymous Grupo Aval sources denied to local media they knew about the 2014 bribes of jailed former senator Otto Bula and businessman Federico Gaviria.

The first Colombian whistle

According to Zambrano, “the money we moved… was money of [consortium] Consol, which was Grupo Aval and the Brazilian guys. This issue is not just about Odebrecht, the money was from the consortium, it belonged to them and was deposited in institutions of Grupo Aval.”

Luis Antonio Bueno, the Brazilian engineering firm’s former chief in Colombia, had already told the court that Grupo Aval CEO Luis Carlos Sarmiento Jr. was informed of the bribery practices.

A court ordered a criminal investigation against Sarmiento, which was appealed by the son of Colombia’s richest man.

The former auditor of Odebrecht Corficolombia who discovered the corruption in 2015, Jorge Enrique Pizano, and his son mysteriously died of cyanide poisoning last year.

Why Colombia could never see Odebrecht’s bribery clarified

US also investigating

While investigations in Colombia have proceeded slowly due to a slew of irregularities, US authorities are also investigating the case and reportedly are also looking into the alleged involvement of top Grupo Aval executives.

The US Justice Department is receiving the help of Colombia’s former road authority chief Hernan Andrade, who in Colombia ironically was charged by the prosecution when it was led by Nestor Humberto Martinez.

Martinez was Grupo Aval’s attorney before becoming chief prosecutor and was alerted of the bribery by Pizano in 2015.

The conflict of interest of Martinez and the implication of some of Colombia’s most powerful people, including President Ivan Duque, has severely hampered investigations in the South American country.

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