Colombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office ordered the seizure of over 70 properties belonging to four current and two former Bogota council members accused of awarding public contracts to private firms in exchange for kickbacks, national media reported Thursday.
Over 70 real estate properties, including luxurious apartments, were seized in Bogota as part of an investigation into an ongoing ‘carousel’ corruption scandal involving both current and former council members, according to Bogota’s Santa Fe radio.
Carousel contracts are corruption cases where the money goes in a circle – in this case, allegedly from the government officials to the private companies and then back to the officials.
The precautionary property seizures against the six council members stem from an investigation into contracts awarded to a private construction conglomerate, the Nule Group, in exchange for a payoff.
Specifically, the council members are under scrutiny for their alleged involvement with — and profiting from — the construction of the third phase of Bogota’s bus transit system, TransMilenio.
The construction suffered from irregular stoppages leading many to suspect the delays were intentional in order to increase the amount of public funds awarded to the project.
Former Bogota Mayor Samuel Moreno was suspended in office in 2011 and later jailed for his involvement in the same “carousel contracts” scandal.
Moreno, along with his brother, Senator Ivan Moreno are alleged to have made an estimated $5.5 million in kickbacks from the TransMilenio project.
The two former councilors that will have to explain how they acquired their properties are Jose Fernando Rojas Rodriguez and Rafael Alberto Escruceria.
The four current councilors under investigation are Omar Mejia Baez of the Conservative Party, Jorge Ernesto Salamanca from the Liberal Party, Fernando Lopez of the Radical Change Party, and Javier Manuel Palacio Mejia from the U Party.