Santos defies Colombia’s electoral authority over Odebrecht hearing citing immunity

Former President Juan Manuel Santos refuses to be heard by Colombia’s electoral authority over illegal campaign contributions by Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht.

The National Electoral Council (CNE) summoned Santos to appear as the corruption scandal is reaching the highest echelons of power in Colombia.

But the CNE has reached too high, according to the former president’s lawyer, who told RCN that the former president won’t attend the hearing.

According to the former president’s attorney, Santos enjoys immunity because he was president at the time of the allegedly illegal contributions to his 2014 reelection campaign.

The CNE has dismissed this argument, claiming that Santos took part in the election as an ordinary citizen.

The former president challenging the CNE’s authority is creating a legal stalemate that will have to be resolved by one of the country’s top courts.

Both the CNE and the prosecution are investigating Odebrecht’s allegedly illegal campaign contributions to the campaigns of Santos and his then-rival Oscar Ivan Zuluaga in 2014.

The former president’s former campaign manager is already in prison for receiving illegal campaign contributions from the Brazilians in 2010 and allegedly did so again in 2014 with knowledge of Santos.

According to the US Department of Justice, Odebrecht spent $27 million in bribes between 2009 and 2014 in Colombia alone as part of its international strategy to obtain government contracts abroad.

The investigations in Colombia have been extremely complicated because they implicate some of the country’s most powerful politicians and Grupo Aval, the banking conglomerate that has been bankrolling presidential campaigns since recent memory.

The scandal broke in 2016 when Grupo Aval’s former top attorney, Nestor Humberto Martinez, was chief prosecutor.

The investigation is currently in the hands of the henchmen of Martinez, who resigned last year, reportedly days before the court was to inform him that all Odebrecht-related cases would be transferred to a special prosecutor because of the chief prosecutor’s conflict of interest.

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