Colombia court fines Odebrecht consortium $250 million for graft

FILE PHOTO: The corporate logo of the Odebrecht SA construction conglomerate is pictured at its headquarters in Sao Paulo, Brazil August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker/File Photo

BOGOTA (Reuters) – A Colombian tribunal fined a consortium led by Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht [ODBES.UL] $250 million and banned it from government contracts for 10 years, saying the group used corrupt tactics to win infrastructure contracts.

Odebrecht has been at the center of a massive Latin American graft scandal, acknowledging in 2016 that it bribed officials in a dozen countries. The company paid some $30 million in bribes in Colombia, according to the attorney general’s office.

The consortium was tasked with the construction of the 528-km (328-mile) Ruta del Sol 2 highway to the Caribbean coast, a contract worth more than $1 billion.

Those fined late on Thursday by the regional court included Odebrecht, Episol, a subsidiary of Corficolombiana and Grupo Aval GAA.CN, and Cass Constructores, as well as three former Odebrecht Colombia executives.

Odebrecht’s Colombia office said in a statement it would appeal the decision and continue to seek an “effective collaboration” with authorities.

Episol said in a statement that it disagreed with the Cundinamarca province tribunal’s decision and would explore the legal options available.

The government last month asked the companies regulator to ban Odebrecht from state contracts for 20 years and has opposed the company’s offer to pay $33 million in compensation in exchange for an end to investigations and bans on contracting.

Fourteen people involved in the corruption scandal have been jailed in Colombia, including a former senator and a former transport minister.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Helen Murphy and Rosalba O’Brien

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