Colombia’s congress has reopened an investigation against former President Juan Manuel Santos for his alleged involvement in the illegal funding of his campaign by disgraced Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht.
The president of the House of Representative’s Accusation’s Commission, Ricardo Ferro (Democratic Center), said they were reopening a preliminary investigation after former congressman Bernardo Miguel Elias alleged in an interview with magazine Semana last month that Santos knew his convicted former campaign manager received illegal campaign contributions from Odebrecht.
“I served as director of the campaign of Juan Manuel Santos, who knew perfectly well that the resources they were given were coming from Odebrecht,” Elias told the magazine.
Santos and a large group of his closet associates, including Elias, have already been investigated for ties to the scandal. Elias, Santos’ former campaign director, in February was sentenced to almost seven years in prison in February because he accepted $9 million in bribes from Odebrecht.
Following the publication, Ferro said the Accusations Commission received a complaint and that his team was “obligated to process it,” and that they opened the preliminary investigation to see if the accusations should be formally investigated.
The Odebrecht corruption scandal has reached the highest levels of the Colombian government, including Ferro’s own party that allegedly also received illegal funding from Odebrecht during the 2014 campaign.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that in 2015 a key witness told Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez that allies of President Ivan Duque and his political patron, former President Alvaro Uribe, also received money from the Brazilian company.
Ironically, a former editor of Semana has also been accused of ties to the corruption scandal.
Many of the accusations never made it to court and a special prosecutor was appointed last year because of former chief prosecutor Nestor Humberto Martinez’ conflict of interest; he allegedly advised Odebrecht’s business partner, banking conglomerate Grupo Aval, during the bribery practices.
While few details of pending investigations are known, the Accusations Commission is set to hear Elias on June 17 and asked Semana columnist Vicky Davila, who interviewed the former lawmaker, for the audio of the interview.
Odebrecht is the center of one of the biggest corruption scandals in the history of Latin America. According to the United States’ Department of Justice, Odebrecht spent $27 million on bribes in Colombia alone.