Irregularities in the investigation into the death of a key witness in the Odebrecht bribery scandal forced the director of Colombia’s medical examiner’s office to resign.
The resignation of Carlos Valdes followed revelations he had falsely claimed that his office found no cyanide on a bloody towel of late Odebrecht witness Jorge Enrique Pizano.
The cyanide poisoning of Pizano’s son three days after the witness’ death raised suspicion that the prime witness in the bribery scandal did not die of cancer in November as initially believed, but could have been murdered.
Valdes came under pressure last month already when forensic scientists said that body tissue tested by the medical examiner’s office couldn’t rule out cyanide poisoning because it had been kept in formaldehyde.
The respected scientist resigned on Thursday after media reported that a towel that was also tested did not contain Pizano’s blood as claimed by Valdes, but saliva.
According to the resigning director, the saliva did also not contain signs of cyanide poisoning, but the damage had been done.
There is no reason for my eight-year work as the head of the institute to be stained. I am handing over an institute with high scientific quality. It’s the director who made the mistake.
Valdes is the first official to take responsibility and resign over irregularities that have marred the investigation and spurred the Supreme Court to appoint a special prosecutor earlier this month.
The prosecutor general has refused to resign despite his alleged attempts to cover up the Brazilian engineering company’s bribery practices in Colombia.