One single company, the Brazilian construction giant, Odebrecht, managed to pay off politicians and their aides to obtain exclusivity in bidding processes in Brazil, Colombia and Peru.
Corruption knows no boundaries, skin color, ideology, ethnicity or political preference. Today, this reality is clearer in Latin America than anywhere else.
A few days ago, Peruvian prosecutors requested the detention of former president Alejandro Toledo, who according to investigators received $20 million from Brazilian giant construction giant, Odebrecht.
The anti-corruption prosecutor Hamilton Castro, head of the special team investigating the Peruvian chapter of the Lava Jato case, the scandal that originated in Brazil and that involved dozens of politicians, government officials and even the oil giant Petrobras, has requested 18 months of preventive custody for Alejandro Toledo, president of the country between 2001 and 2006.
Toledo is accused of receiving bribes from the Brazilian construction company, which he would have favoured on the Interoceánica Sur highway, linking Peru and Brazil.
The request will be analyzed within two days by a National Investigation Court and will be accompanied by an international arrest warrant and an alert to Interpol. Toledo is traveling in Paris, next to his Wife Eliane Karp.
From the French capital, the former president offered an interview to the Fourth Power program, where he denied having received bribes. He also challenged Jorge Barata, an Odebrecht representative in Peru and now a collaborator of the Peruvian Attorney’s Office, to prove his claims.
“Let Mr. Barata tell you when, how, where and in what bank I have been given 20 million dollars,” he emphasized in the interview.
The judicial situation of Alejandro Toledo began to get complicated on Friday, when his home in the residential district of Camacho, was searched at the request of the Attorney General’s Office. This house and several offices would have been acquired with part of the money received from Odebrecht.
During the search, which lasted more than six hours, various objects were seized: a safe, numerous videocassettes, two mobile phones, a large number of documents and even an Inca gold crown. Investigators also seized $33,000 in cash.
“I can not allow them to enter my home as delinquents at three in the morning without notification, without the presence of my lawyers. They have taken very valuable things that belong to my wife, who is an anthropologist,” Toledo said.
Odebrecht Corruption spreads to Colombia
The investigation of the ‘Odebrecht case’ and its ramifications seem to have no end in Latin America. In Colombia it gives the impression that it has only just begun.
On Tuesday, the Attorney General’s office said that part of the money received as a bribe by a former senator, arrested earlier this year would, have ended in the presidential campaign of Juan Manuel Santos in 2014.
On January 14, former senator of the Liberal Party, Otto Bula, was detained, according to Deputy Attorney General Maria Paulina Riveros.
He was hired by the Brazilian company in August 2013 with the purpose of ensuring that Odebrecht obtained the stretch of a road in the framework of the construction of the Ruta del Sol in Colombia.
According to the prosecution’s investigation, Bula received a commission of $4.6 million.
“It has been established that of that amount, Mr. Otto Bula sent funds to Colombia in 2014, which were cashed at the time for a total of one million dollars. The final beneficiary would have been the management of the Santos for President 2014,” the Attorney General said in a statement on Tuesday.
According to the accuser, of that million dollars, “a commission of 10% was withdrawn to pay third parties” already identified by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
President Santos’ campaign manager in 2014, Roberto Uribe, rejected the accusations.
“I declare my most energetic rejection of the unfounded, biased and slanderous statements made by about me by Mr. Otto Bula to the Office of the Attorney General; whom I have rarely met, and with whom I have never, but never, ever shared a coffee,” Uribe said in a statement.
“I promoted and led within the campaign the policy of not receiving donations. The expenses were covered by replacement revenues established by law, as stated in the financial statements presented to the CNE, and audited by the same institution,” the text added.
Tuesday’s revelations are the penultimate chapter of many about how Odebrecht influenced and allegedly bought off politicians in Colombia.
The first episode occurred on January 12, when the Attorney General’s Office arrested Gabriel García, a former transportation minister during President Álvaro Uribe’s government in 2009 and 2010.
He received $6.5 million from Odebrecht to ensure that the Brazilian construction giant was the only firm authorised to bid for a stretch of the Ruta del Sol, one of the country’s main roads.
“They will be charged with the crimes of bribery, undue interest in concluding contracts and illicit enrichment,” investigators announced.
Garcia Morales was the first detainee in Colombia because of the scandal of the Brazilian company, that was fined $3.5 billion dollars for paying bribes to get contracts in various Latin American countries.
Two days after the arrest of Uribe’s ex-deputy minister, the arrest of Otto Bula, who has appeared in several cases of corruption during the last decades in Colombia.
In the last few days, it transpired that Bula will give the names of 14 people, including former ministers and politicians, who, he said, would be implicated in bribes by Odebrecht.
The financing of the Santos campaign in 2014 is not the only one that has been peppered by the corruption case involving the Brazilian company.
For several weeks, the investigators have looked into the participation of Brazilian consultant Duda Mendoça, detained in relation to Operation Lava Jato, in the campaign of Óscar Iván Zuluaga, the candidate defeated by Santos in the last presidential elections.
According to the investigations, Odebrecht would have paid $1.6 million to Mendoça to advise Zuluaga’s campaign.