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  • Colombian Senator Bernardo Miguel Elias

    Colombian Senator Bernardo Miguel Elias | Photo: Congress of Colombia

Published 11 August 2017

Miguel Elias is a key political ally of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Colombian Senator Bernardo Miguel Elias was arrested outside of his Bogota apartment on Thursday on charges that he received bribes from Odebrecht, Brazil's engineering and construction firm at the center of a global graft scandal. 

Santos Reelection Campaign in Colombia Received Odebrecht Money

The arrest comes only days after his cousin and two suspected associates were also detained, according to Colombia Reports.

Leaked testimony from Otta Bulla, a jailed former congressman, indicated that US$9 million in bribes would have been paid to Elias. Meanwhile, another US$4.5 million was reserved for other politicians managed by Federico Gaviria, a businessman jailed on corruption allegations.

Elias, a member of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos' Social Party of National Unity, is the first senator detained by the prosecution on charges related to Odebrecht's multi-million dollar bribery scandal, which has rocked many facets of Latin American politics.

Elias' arrest sent chills down the spine of the national government, as well as Congress and the business community, according to Semana. If the senator and prosecutors agree to a plea deal, as told to Semana by an anonymous congressional source, “half the country will go down with him.”

Odebrecht, Latin America's largest construction company, is also accused of helping to finance Santos' election campaigns in 2010 and 2014 and paying more than US$11 million in bribes to secure road infrastructure contracts throughout Colombia.

However, the country's Prosecutor General claimed that the figure appears to be a low estimate, suggesting that the Brazilian firm had bribed government officials to the tune of US$27 million.

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