Colombia’s tax payers will not have to pay the debt a corrupt daughter company of the country’s largest banking conglomerate owes to banks, a tribunal ruled on Tuesday.
The ruling is a major blow for Colombia’s richest man, Luis Carlos Sarmiento and Grupo Aval, the banking conglomerate he largely owns.
The $300 million debt that never existed
The ruling is also a major embarrassment for Transport Minister Angela Maria Orozco, because the $375 million (COP1.2 trillion) debt she was negotiating was in fact no higher than $61 million (COP 221 billion), according to the tribunal.
Of this debt, only $6.9 million (COP24 billion) will have to be paid from the national budget. The rest must be paid from the trust of corrupt Grupo Aval subsidiary Corficolombiana, the tribunal ruled.
How it is possible that the minister was negotiating a debt that was apparently inflated by five times and was not the government’s to pay is a complete and utter mystery.
Road works contract canceled
The tribunal annulled the contract between road infrastructure agency ANI and the consortium of Corficolombiana, Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht and Grupo Solarte.
This contract to construct the Ruta del Sol II highway project was obtained in 2009 through corruption, including the bribery of the vice-Transport Minister of former President Alvaro Uribe.
According to the tribunal, the contract was canceled because of the “illicit cause and objective” of the consortium.
Minister relieved under immediate fire
Orozco said to be relieved that the government will only have to pay $6.9 million and not the $375 million she was negotiating. “This is much less than I thought,” she told press redundantly.
I can’t talk about details because I just read the ruling. We celebrate that the contract was canceled, which is what the nation asked for and that the sentence is less than expected. Wonderful.
Transport Minister Angela Maria Orozco
Journalist Maria Jimena Duzan, who revealed the government’s intention to pay the corrupt consortium’s debt, said the ruling was “good news for the Colombians and bad news for the transport minister and the government of [President] Ivan Duque” who will have to explain where the $300 million in debt that never existed came from.