Odebrecht fined $50 mn in Colombia over corruption

Bogota (AFP) –


Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which recently changed its name to Novonor, must pay a $50 million fine over corruption related to construction of a highway in Colombia, authorities announced on Monday.

The company was fined "for implementing a system restricting free competition" related to a 520-kilometer (325-mile) section of the Ruta del Sol highway from the center to the north of the country, Colombia's industry and commerce regulatory agency said.

Odebrecht and its local partners Corficolombiana and Episol "diverted resources from the execution of the contract" to pay a $6.5 million bribe to Gabriel Garcia, a government official who helped them win the contract, the agency said.

The move was part of a "corruption scheme deployed by Odebrecht on a global scale, that lasted more than a decade and resulted in the payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes in different countries," it added.

The investigation was based on a plea deal the company reached with the US Department of Justice in 2016, and testimony from Garcia, who is serving five years under house arrest.

Odebrecht executives Luiz Bueno, Luiz Mameri and Yesid Arocha must pay fines totaling $900,000 for "having collaborated" in the Colombian highway corruption scheme.

Odebrecht was at the center of the Operation Car Wash corruption scandal that resulted in dozens of top businessmen and politicians in Brazil and elsewhere in Latin America being sent to jail.

From its launch in 2014, the investigation into Operation Car Wash uncovered a vast network of bribes paid by large construction companies to politicians in several countries to obtain major public works contracts.

The case sparked political crises in several countries. In Peru, three former presidents are under investigation while a fourth, Alan Garcia, committed suicide in 2019 when police arrived at his home to take him into custody.

Odebrecht was ordered to pay multiple fines including one worth $2.6 billion to the governments of the United States, Brazil and Switzerland.

Earlier this month Odebrecht changed its name to Novonor to try to distance itself from the corruption scandals.