A former Colombian minister became the first person to accept charges linked to the multi-million dollar corruption scandal involving Brazil's largest construction company, Odebrecht, and was transferred Sunday to a prison in Bogota.
Gabriel Garcia Morales, who worked as transportation vice minister under the government of former far-right President Alvaro Uribe from 2002 to 2010, was detained on Jan. 12 for his alleged involvement in the case.
According to the Attorney General's Office, the Brazilian construction giant made a US$6.5 million payment to Garcia Morales in order to win the concession of the Ruta del Sol highway connecting the interior of the country with the Atlantic coast.
According to documents released on Dec. 21 by the U.S. Department of Justice, Odebrecht paid US$788 million in bribes in 12 countries in Latin America and Africa, including Colombia, where it allegedly paid more than US$11 million in 2009 and 2014.
"Former vice minister Garcia accepted charges of bribery, improper signing of contracts, and illicit enrichment. Justice begins to shine," said the Attorney General's Office on Twitter.
For accepting the charges against him, Garcia Morales will receive a reduction of up to half of the penalty imposed. After an 11 hour hearing, the judge ordered the former minister's transfer to La Picota prison in Bogota.
"I am in good health, all the information I have I'm going to give it before the court," said Garcia Morales when arriving at a Bogota court.
According to the prosecution, Odebrecht also paid US$4.6 million to former Senator Otto Nicolas Bula Bula for the adjudication of the Ocaña-Gamarra road in northeastern Colombia. Bula was arrested Sunday in the Colombian capital for his alleged involvement in the bribery scheme.