Colombia’s former President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday denied having received illegal campaign funding from Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht in 2014.
The president appeared at a hearing of the National Electoral Council which, like the prosecution, is investigating Odebrecht’s allegedly illegal funding of the campaigns of Santos and his former rival, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga.
Santos’ former campaign manager was sentenced to prison for receiving illegal funds in 2010, but the alleged 2014 election fraud has yet to be established.
The former president told press that “there’s no evidence linking my presidential campaigns to Odebrecht.”
In the case of the 2010 election this is false. In the case of 2014, this is yet to be clarified.
Santos requested to be investigated in 2017 after he was accused of receiving illegal funding by former Senator Otto Bula, who is serving a five and a half year sentence for receiving bribes from the Brazilians.
Bula a business associate of former Senator Mario Uribe, the cousin of Santos’ political arch nemesis, former President Alvaro Uribe, who has repeatedly been calling for an investigation.
Based on what evidence Uribe wants his political rival convicted is unclear.
According to newspaper El Espectador, the CNE has evidence that a 2014 poll requested by the Santos campaign ended up being paid by a Panamanian firm that had received money from Odebrecht.
Much of the CNE’s evidence, however, is related to the proven illegal funding of the 2010 campaign or circumstantial, according to El Espectador.
The investigation of the Odebrecht scandal has been complicated by the fact that it implicates the administrations or campaigns of three presidents, former chief prosecutor Nestor Humberto Martinez and Grupo Aval, the banking conglomerate of Colombia’s richest man, Luis Carlos Sarmiento.
According to the US Department of State, Odebrecht spent $27 million in bribes between 2009 and 2014 in Colombia.