Gabriel Garcia Morales, a minister for Colombian far-right former President Alvaro Uribe, was arrested over his involvement in the ongoing Odebrecht corruption scandal on Friday. Morales is suspected of receiving US$10 million in bribes from the Brazilian construction company.
Morales, an economist, was director of an institute that managed roadway concessions and then served as the vice minister of transport in Uribe's government from 2009, where he is thought to have taken bribes over a national roadway.
“The attorney general has evidence that Mr. Garcia sought payment of $6.5 million to guarantee that Odebrecht was the company chosen for the Ruta del Sol Dos, excluding other competitors,” said Colombian Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martinez.
While Garcia is the first Colombian arrested in connection with the Odebrecht investigation, Martinez said that the investigation also aimed to establish others who were involved in the scandal. Bribes totaling US$4.5 million had been paid to Odebrecht during current President Juan Manuel Santos's administration.
Former President Alvaro Uribe is now a senator and has been a key member of the “No” campaign against the Colombian peace agreement with the FARC guerrilla group.
Odebrecht is Latin America's biggest construction company and is part of a massive international corruption investigation over paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes in association with construction projects, as well as a worldwide money laundering scheme.
The scandal spans across 12 countries including Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Venezuela, the U.S. and Switzerland. Odebrecht has also been at the center of Brazil’s Petrobras corruption scandal. Dubbed “Operation Car Wash,” the scandal has embroiled dozens of high-level Brazilian politicians — including unelected President Michel Temer.