Ecuador's Vice President Jorge Glas and 12 others were indicted Tuesday for unlawful association in the giant corruption case involving Brazilian constructor Odebrecht.
Judge Miguel Jurado's move makes Glas -- who has been in preventive custody since October 2 -- the highest-ranking politician to be connected to the multimillion-dollar Odebrecht kickbacks case, which has cast a cloud over politicians in a handful of Latin American countries.
Prosecutors say Glas got a total of $13.5 million in bribes, via an uncle who is also under arrest, for favoring Odebrecht in granting government contracts.
The trial is expected to last several weeks.
The unlawful association charge carries a penalty of three to five years in prison.
The prosecution has previously warned that Glas and other defendants in the case could also be charged with more serious crimes, such as bribery and illicit enrichment.
In an October interview from prison in Quito, Glas told AFP he was a victim of the construction giant's revenge after he was instrumental in kicking the company out of Ecuador in 2008 following a dispute over repair of a hydroelectric plant.
Glas, who was minister of strategic sectors before becoming vice president in 2013, has denied any link to the Odebrecht scandal, though his uncle, Ricardo Rivera, has been arrested for his alleged involvement.
Under investigation by the US Justice Department, Odebrecht agreed in December to pay a record $3.5 billion fine after admitting to paying $788 million in bribes across 12 countries to secure contracts.
The scandal has ensnared politicians in several countries, including Mexico, Peru, Panama and Venezuela.
© 2017 AFP