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Colombia’s Santos linked to Odebrecht bribe: prosecutors

Update: February, 08/2017 - 10:15
Handout picture released by the Colombian presidency showing the Secretary of transparency of the presidency of Colombia, Camilo Enciso speaking on Tuesday in Bogota, Colombia. Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office said it was investigating whether money from Brazilian construction company Odebrecht was earmarked for the campaign for the re-election of President Juan Manuel Santos in 2014, which the government flatly rejected. — AFP/VNA Photo
Viet Nam News

BOGOTA Colombian prosecutors said Tuesday they suspect President Juan Manuel Santos, winner of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize, received a bribe from scandal-plagued Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht for his 2014 re-election campaign.

Prosecutors said they were still investigating the allegation, which emerged from a probe of a former senator accused of taking and making bribes to ensure Odebrecht won a juicy government contract.

The Santos administration roundly rejected the claim, accusing the right-wing opposition of fabricating it.

The case is the latest spinoff from a giant scandal in Brazil involving the state oil company there, Petrobras, which was bilked for billions of dollars over the course of a decade by corrupt executives, politicians and contractors -- including Odebrecht.

The many officials Odebrecht bribed around Latin America allegedly include Colombian ex-lawmaker Otto Bula.

Colombia’s attorney general, Nestor Humberto Martinez, told a press conference that Bula oversaw two transfers to Colombia in 2014 for a total of US$1 million, "whose final beneficiary was allegedly the management of the Santos for President 2014 campaign."

Bula was allegedly hired by Odebrecht to help the construction company win a 500-kilometre (300-mile) road project.

Bula, who has been arrested, denies the accusation.

He is close to former president Alvaro Uribe, the fiercest critic of the centre-right Santos government.

The administration’s transparency secretary, Camilo Enciso, accused Uribe’s camp of "defending itself by attacking with lies," after some Uribe-era officials were themselves named in the Odebrecht scandal.

The controversy comes as the Santos government implements a historic peace deal with Colombia’s FARC guerrillas and seeks to negotiate another with a rival rebel group, the ELN.

A corruption investigation could damage Santos as he races to end a half-century conflict that has claimed more than 260,000 lives. AFP


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