Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office on Wednesday ordered an investigation into the alleged involvement of five Colombian senators in the Odebrecht bribery scandal.
The government prosecutors in the Odebrecht case have gathered new evidence possibly implicating Senators Armando Bendetti, Bernardo Elias, Musa Besaile, Antonio Guerra and Alvaro Ashton in the use of congressional influence to promote the interests of the Brazilian engineering company.
The new information is reported to have surfaced from statements taken during the investigation of former congressman, Otto Bula, in the scandal.
— Fiscalía Colombia (@FiscaliaCol) November 15, 2017
Otto Bula was arrested in January for allegedly taking $4.6 million in bribes to help secure a contract in 2013 for Odebrecht’s Colombian branch, Concesionaria Ruta del Sol S.A.S., to build the Ocaña-Gamarra highway.
Deputy Prosecutor General Maria Paulina Riveros now claims that new information from the Bula case indicates that the five other senators took money in bribes from Odebrecht as part of a so-called “Bulldozer Group.”
“We have new information about public servants [working] in favor of Odebrecht. Congressional services were hired through successful commissions to influence government decisions,” Riveros told reporters at a press conference Wednesday.
She also stated that Bula, together with Federico Gaviria, had negotiated with several congressmen in order to obtain contracts of “legal stability” in 2001 for a second stretch of the Ruta del Sol highway, a deal which froze the granting of taxes for several years, generating millions of savings for the company.
“For the group of senators involved, some two million dollars would have been distributed, for Bula $500,000 and for Gavira another $500,000,” said the deputy prosecutor.
From 2001 to 2016, the Brazilian engineering firm paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes in association with projects in 12 countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela, according to a U.S. Department of Justice report.
The uncovered corruption includes an alleged $11.1 million in bribes in Colombia to win the two public works contracts for Section Two of the Ruta del Sol, and the Ocaña-Gamarra highways.
Colombia’s Prosecutor General has alleged that the Brazilian company bribed government and elected officials in Colombia with upwards of $27 million.