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Ecuador's VP jailed for corruption

December 14, 2017

Ecuador's vice president has become the highest-ranking politician to be convicted over the Odebrecht bribes scandal. Other cases in Mexico and Colombia have shown the international reach of the corruption.

Jorge Glas on his way to the court room
Image: Getty Images/AFP/J. Ruiz

Jorge Glas was accused of receiving a total of $13.5 million (€11.4 million) in bribes from the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht through an uncle, who was also under arrest. Four others, including Glas' uncle, were given the same sentence for illicit association and receiving bribes from Odebrecht to secure government contracts.

Attorney General, Carlos Baca called for the six year term, the highest sentence possible for the crime. 

Glas said he was being politically persecuted: "Without a doubt, I am not accusing the President of the Republic, but there are actors who want me out of the Vice Presidency." 

Glas was suspended from his official duties as vice president in August. He had held the position since 2013 and was re-elected to the post in February. The 48-year-old had been in preventive custody since October and his trial before Ecuador's Supreme Court started in November.

The Brazilian firm Odebrecht is at the center of one of the largest corruption scandals in Latin America. It has admitted paying bribes from Peru to Panama after pleading guilty in a New York court in December 2016 to violating the US foreign bribery law after an investigation into Brazil's Petrobras energy company revealed the kickback program. Odebrecht has paid $3.5 billion in fines to the US, Brazil and Switzerland.

Odebrecht workers in Itaguai
The scandal surrounding Odebrecht involves several Latin American countriesImage: Getty Images/AFP/Y. Chiba

Odebrecht cases in Mexico and Colombia

In Mexico this week the government banned an Odebrecht affiliate from bidding for federal public contracts for four years, after an investigation.

The case was based on an "incorrect charge" of $6 million under a contract with state oil company Pemex at a refinery in the center of the country.

In August, Brazil's O Globo newspaper reported that Emilio Lozoya, the former head of Pemex, was involved in shifting money to President Enrique Pena Nieto's presidential campaign. Odebrecht admitted to US and Brazilian prosecutors that it paid $10.5 million in bribes in Mexico, but details had not been made public.

In Colombia, a former vice-minister of transport, Gabriel Garcia Morales, was sentenced on Tuesday to five years and two months in jail after he admitted taking $6.5 million in payoffs to help Odebrecht win a 2010 road construction contract valued at over $1 billion.

Garcia Morales has promised to testify against other public officials who received bribes, according to the attorney general's office which said Odebrecht paid more than $27 million in bribes in the Andean country.

Morales was also fined $21,000. His original sentence of 10 years was reduced by half because he accepted responsibility.

The Odebrecht standstill

jm/se (EFE, AP)