December, 17 2018 (Buenos Aires Times)
A Colombian court has fined Brazilian multinational Odebrecht more than US$250 million and banned it from tendering for state contracts for 10 years after finding it guilty of corruption to secure contracts.
The Brazilian firm has acknowledged being at the center of a massive graft scandal, handing out more than US$750 million in bribes across 12 mostly Latin American countries to secure infrastructure contracts.
Among those named in the court ruling late Thursday were Odebrecht’s Colombian partners, including Episol – a subsidiary of the Corficolombiana group owned by the country’s richest man, Luis Carlos Sarmiento.
The court ordered the seizure of bank accounts, goods and dividends obtained by the companies involved.
Odebrecht has admitted doling out US$32.5 million in bribes in Colombia alone to help secure public works contracts, including the South American country’s biggest infrastructure project, the Ruta del Sol II highway linking the centre of the country with the north.
The court ruled that the US$252-million fine can only be used to complete the project.
“This figure is in excess of 22 times the US$11 million the multinational initially offered to receive benefits in its criminal, disciplinary and fiscal trials in Colombia,” the state prosecutors’ office said in a statement.
Episol said in a statement after the court ruling it would fight the decision.
The 300-page ruling, handed down by the court in the central city of Cundinamarca, is subject to appeal.
“Episol is not responsible for the crimes committed by third parties,” the subsidiary said in a statement, adding that it intended to cooperate with the authorities.
So far, six people have been convicted in Colombia as part of the investigation.