The former campaign manager of Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos was charged on Monday for allegedly receiving bribes from Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht in 2010 and 2014.
The former campaign manager, Roberto Prieto, did not accept the charges of influence peddling, undue interest in signing contacts, illegal enrichment, false testimony and fraud.
According to the prosecution, Prieto secured almost $450,000 in bribes from the Brazilian engineering firm to buy posters for the 2010 election campaign.
In 2014, Odebrecht illegally supported the Santos campaign by financing several election polls, again with the knowledge of the president’s former campaign manager, the prosecution said.
The illegal contributions allegedly were deposited on the bank accounts on third party companies so they wouldn’t appear in the financial administration of the two Santos campaigns.
The modus operandi here was to ask for money from companies and individuals saying that it was required to fill gaps in Juan Manuel Santos’ political campaigns.
Prosecutor Amparo Ceron
In return for the bribes, Prieto allegedly tried to influence decisions of the National Infrastructure Agency (ANI), which ultimately decides which contractor to hire for infrastructure projects.
Former ANI director Luis Fernando Andrade has been charged for allegedly allowing corruption to influence his agency’s decisions.
The former campaign allegedly pocketed $230,000 in bribes for his corruption practices, according to the charges.
Prieto allegedly operated without the knowledge of Santos, a personal friend of the former campaign manager.
The president has consistently denied knowledge of the illegal payments and claimed he did not authorize acceptance of them. He said he “rejects and condemns” them.
“I am deeply sorry and ask forgiveness from Colombians for this shameful act that should never have happened and that I have just learned about,” Santos said in a when the accusations were first made public.
Colombia’s prosecution opened a criminal investigation after the United States Department of Justice claimed that Odebrecht allegedly spent more than $11 million in bribes to obtain road infrastructure contracts in Colombia.
The CEO of the Brazilian company, Marcelo Odebrecht, was sentenced to 19 years in prison in 2016. His company’s corruption practices triggered the resignation of former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and former Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is in jail on suspicion he received bribes.