Colombia bribery crackdown an example for Panama

A Colombian court has been tougher than Panama authorities on the Brazilian multinational Odebrecht ordering it to pay about $252 million dollars in compensation and disallowing it to bid on state contracts for 10 years because of corruption.

Panama has continued to hand out billions in contracts with more in the wind.

The ruling of the administrative court of Cundinamarca (center) was announced on Thursday and also applies to the partners of firms in the country, such as Episol, the company of banker Luis Carlos Sarmiento, the richest man in Colombia.

The decision responds to an action of January 2017 in which the attorney general, Fernando Carillo, requested precautionary measures to guarantee the viability of the Ruta del Sol 2 project, the country’s most important highway project.

The ruling of more than 300 pages definitively suspended that contract, after it was established that it was awarded through the payment of bribes.

Apart from ordering the seizure of the bank accounts, goods and dividends obtained by companies involved, the judicial office declared several persons responsible for corruption including a former minister and a group of high profile businessmen.

The fine exceeds something more than 22 times the  $11 million initially offered by the multinational, to receive benefits in their criminal, disciplinary and fiscal proceedings in Colombia said in a Public Ministry press release.

In 2016, the Brazilian firm admitted before the US justice system that it had obtained lucrative contracts through bribes to politicians, in a practice that continued in 12 countries, including Colombia and Panama.

So far, six people have been condemned for this scandal in Colombia, where bribes were paid for at least $32.5 million. In Panama, they are more than $86  million.