Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office notarized copies to the National Electoral Council (CNE) to investigate Odebrecht’s alleged irregular contributions to Juan Manuel Santos’ presidential campaign in 2014.
The investigation dates back to the judicial proceedings attended by Andres Sanmiguel Castaño. Castaño holds 50% shares of Gistic Logistic Soluciones Integrales, a company that benefited from a contract for the construction of Ruta del Sol II (South Highway), an infrastructural project which involved the participation of Odebrecht. Jose Enrique Pizano, the late director of the Ruta del Sol II, mentioned these details in his report. It is important to note that Pizano was found dead by poisoning on his property after revealing that money laundering and bribery existed in the grant of which Odebrecht was a part).
The Ruta del Sol in Colombia sought to create better roads for the mobilization of goods and passengers connecting the center of the country and the Atlantic coast. The scandal escalated in phase II when the Odebrecht concession was awarded, and the payment of commissions in the sector became public. The multinational company was responsible for building 528 kilometers between the municipality of Puerto Salgar (Cundinamarca) and San Roque (Cesar).
During the interrogation, Sanmiguel Castaño pointed out that David Fernando Portilla Colunge, representative of the construction company Fagar Servicios, had instrumentalized his company. In this sense, he transferred a sum of millions to the accounts of the re-election campaign of the former Colombian president: an amount of 3,850 million pesos (approximately 1,900,000 dollars at the time).
“When I realized that it was urgent to get the money out because that was for the campaign for the re-election of Juan Manuel Santos […] It was for the second round, we were in the second round,” said the businessman, as quoted in the publication, El Tiempo.
Bodyguards in bullet-proof cars handled money for the re-election of Santos
Sanmiguel Castaño also commented on a scandalous incident. Allegedly, 20 guards in bullet-proof cars moved the capital that went into Santos’ campaign. As a witness, the businessman affirmed that the money was consigned to his company’s account and that it came from a fictitious business for the Ruta del Sol, which was given to his partner Esteban Moreno, who collected the money accompanied by the 20 guards.
He also assured that the money was for politicians of the Liberal Party, and mentioned Simon Gaviria, son of former president Cesar Gaviria, as one of the beneficiaries. It should be remembered that at that time Simon Gaviria was the director of the Liberal Party, and after Santos’ victory, he was appointed as director of the National Planning Department (DNP).
Sanmiguel is summoned to justice along with his partner Moreno, who would be the link behind Odebrecht’s transaction with Santos.
“Let the Ñoño speak”
There is increasing evidence of illegal contributions by Odebrecht to the campaign of former president Santos. The journalist Vicky Davila, in an opinion column, titled, Let the Ñoño speak, presents an interview with the former senator that confirms an open secret: former President Santos’ ties with Odebrecht. In this confession, the senator states that Santos’ 2014 campaign used all the tools and machinery to be re-elected with a message that enchanted everyone, the message of peace.
In this interview, Elias revealed that in 2014, Odebrecht did contribute to the Santos campaign. “I was in contact with a person who was in charge of Juan Manuel Santos’ campaign,” said Elias.
Further, Roberto Prieto, Santos’ right-hand-man, confessed that in 2010, the multinational paid 400,000 USD bill for Santos’ campaign posters. Prieto, a former manager of Santos’ presidential campaign in 2014, was sentenced to five years in prison for influencing the assignment of road infrastructure contracts. He accepted his responsibility for the crime of private influence, falsifying public documents, wrongful interest in the conclusion of contracts, and illegal termination of contracts.
Precisely, the statement of Bernando’ El Ñoño’ Elías, former senator for the Partido de la U, caused the Accusations Committee of the House of Representatives to open a preliminary investigation against the former president. Elías was expected to give his statement within the framework of the process being advanced against Santos for the Odebrecht scandal. However, he did not attend, arguing that his trial is ongoing in the Supreme Court of Justice and that speaking in the Commission could hinder his appearance before that court.
Alfonso Portela, the lawyer of former president Santos, indicated that so far there is only one element in the case file and that is Elias’s interview to the journalist Davila. “The only thing in the file is what everyone knows, which is the statement that the former senator gave to Vicky Davila,” he said.
Elias will have to answer many questions that may directly link Santos to the Brazilian multinational company’s contribution to the re-election campaign.
Since 2017, former presidents Andres Pastrana and Alvaro Uribe have requested a lawsuit against Santos for the alleged inflow of Odebrecht money into the 2014 campaign.