Odebrecht’s corruptive cost in Colombia may have been three times larger than what was reported

By Michael Krumholtz August 17, 2018

Brazilian engineering giant Odebrecht’s influence in Colombia may be much bigger than previously thought, according to an announcement from the country’s Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martínez. He said Wednesday that Odebrecht spent some $32.5 million in Colombia while bribing those in influential positions, according to Bloomberg.

The firm had its tentacles spread throughout all of Latin America as kickback deals and bribes were made with politicians and leaders for friendly public works contracts. In Peru alone, three former presidents were implicated in having ties to Odebrecht through campaign funds or suspect contract deals.

In a previous plea agreement with various countries, Odebrecht admitted to spending $11.1 million in Colombia in order to come out on top for a pair of infrastructure projects.

Martínez said the bribery took place from 2009 to 2014. Five Colombian officials have already been convicted because of their ties to the immense corruption scheme, including a former senator and Otto Nicolas Bula Bula one-time Vice-Minister of Transportation Gabriel Garcia Morales.

The attorney general added that, unlike some other countries, Colombia wanted to conduct its own investigation into the Odebrecht matter, rather than just taking the Brazilian side of the story.

“Colombia was the only country that did not agree to receive evidence from the Brazilian prosecutors,” Martínez said. “That’s why we were able to get this investigation to the point where it is. That’s why there are three Brazilians indicted with arrest orders pending.”

Other countries are demanding more in damages from Odebrecht, like Peru which has requested nearly $1 billion in restitution. In total, Odebrecht admitted to having defrauded $788 million worth of bribes and kickbacks from 12 countries, mostly in the Latin American region.

Colombian authorities said their investigation into Odebrecht will likely conclude this year with more trials against those indicted beginning this month.

*An earlier version of this article was published on our sister site Colombia Focus.