A former opposition senator was sentenced to 14 years in prison on Monday after a judge ruled that he had been part of a “contract mafia” that is suspected of having embezzled roughly $500 million through an elaborate kickback scheme in Bogota.
Following a three-year trial, Colombia’s Supreme Court signed off on prosecution claims that former Senator Ivan Moreno of the socialist Democratic Pole had abused his position to secure kickbacks for the granting of public works contracts to befriended companies in the capital.
The court declared Moreno guilty of extortion, influence peddling and the illegal signing of contracts.
The senator’s brother and Bogota’s former mayor, Samuel Moreno, is also in jail awaiting trial over similar allegations.
The Moreno brothers, former House Representative German Olano, and a dozen of Bogota council members and public officials have been alleged to have conspired with construction companies in order to secure public works contracts for the private enterprises and kickbacks for the involved former mayor, lawmakers and public officials.
Three directors of a local construction company were sentenced to seven and a half years in prison over the same scandal in 2011.
Media and prosecutors found out about the massive corruption scandal in 2010 after investigating unreasonable delays in public transportation works in and around Bogota.
According to the investigations, these delays in some cases were caused on purpose to allow involved private contractors to charge the local government for extra work while in practice no work was carried out. In return, politicians and public officials were funneled kickbacks for allowing the delays and overcharging.
The Bogota city government allegedly lost as much as half a billion dollars in the scheme.
The Morenos are members of one of Bogota’s political dynasties. The brothers’ grandfather, General Gustavo Rojas, ruled Colombia in the 1950s after a coup d’etat. Their mother is a former senator and unsuccessfully ran for president in the 1970s.