Brazilian engineering form did not just illegally finance Colombian presidential campaigns, state officials and congressmen, its CEO Marcelo Odebrecht on Monday admitted to also paying illegal armed groups.
In an interview with Brazilian television network Globo, Odebrecht said that his company paid illegal armed groups not just in Colombia, but also in Brazil, Iraq and Peru.
“You don’t get to act in a country where there’s a guerrilla group or in the favelas of Rio [de Janeiro] without paying those militias,” Odebrecht told Globo.
The disgraced businessman did not say to which illegal armed group he made payments, but he may just have incriminated himself as Colombia is set to investigate companies that financed illegal armed groups like the Marxist FARC guerrillas and the far-right AUC paramilitaries.
Brazilian magazine Veja reported last month that the company was paying between $50 million and $100 million annually in guerrilla “taxes” in Colombia to prevent its employees from being kidnapped.
In the Brazilian books, these payments would be registered as “territorial contributions,” the magazine revealed.
Odebrecht carried out a number of construction project in the early 1990s in the Colombian provinces Cesar, Magdalena and Casanare, areas where either the now-demobilizing FARC or the ELN guerrilla group exercised territorial control.
The FARC, which is set to go on trial within months, has refused to either admit or deny having received payments from Odebrecht.
Former guerrilla commander Felix Antonio Muñoz, a.k.a. Pastor Alape, told Colombian press the FARC would not make “any statement in favor or against Odebrecht.”
The Brazilians’ bribery practice have discredited virtually all major players in Colombian politics.
President Juan Manuel Santos’ 2010 campaign is under investigation after its campaign manager admitted to receiving and spending illegal contributions from Odebrecht.
In 2014, the company allegedly funneled money into the campaign of opposition candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, who subsequently felt forced to “suspend” his 2018 presidential ambitions.
According to the US Department of Justice, Odebrecht spent more than $11 million in bribes in Colombia between 2009 and 2014, implicating the administrations of both Santos and his predecessor Alvaro Uribe.