As the truth is often lost in coverage or cover-ups, I have decided to publish this blog to tell my story.
In 2011, I answered the call to serve in Colombia, my parents’ birthplace, to create and run a new government agency, the National Infrastructure Agency – known by its Spanish acronym “ANI”. Previously, I had a successful 25-year career in McKinsey & Company and ultimately retired as Senior Partner from the firm.
I accepted the position as the head of ANI because I wanted to develop the transportation network backbone of Colombia. I was convinced that to reduce the country’s high levels of poverty and inequality it was necessary to develop competitive infrastructure which, in turn, would encourage the growth of investment, production and employment. I was also deeply committed to root out corruption from government procurement for ethical and practical reasons.
Unfortunately, ANI inherited a contract for a project called Ruta del Sol 2, which had been obtained by Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction company, through bribing. Further, the company created to execute this contract was later used to pay-off politicians to influence decisions at ANI and other government entities.
I was unaware of the wrongdoing until the U.S. Department of Justice discovered it in December 2016. Unfortunately, many acts of corruption in Colombia are only discovered when other countries intervene. According to press reports, up to $ 50 million of illegal payments were made by Odebrecht-controlled companies in Colombia. As soon as the bribing was uncovered, I asked an arbitration court to declare the contract null and void, as Colombian law requires.
My relationship with Odebrecht had been very tense since 2013, when I reported to the President’s Transparency Secretary about rumors that Odebrecht was trying to form a cartel to manipulate ANI’s bidding processes. Then in 2015 I opposed the cost-overrun claims for $ 250 million made by Odebrecht and its partners. The contract clearly stipulated that cost overruns was their responsibility. Finally, I opposed a liquidation formula that would have generated additional profits of $150 million for them. These controversies are now in arbitration.
Shortly after I rendered testimony to the arbitration tribunal in June of 2017 explaining why we could not accept the generous formula proposed by Odebrecht and its partners, the Attorney General’s Office announced that charges would be pressed against me.
I respect the rule of law and process in Colombia. However, I fear a glaring conflict of interest that is leading to abuse of prosecutorial discretion.
Attorney General Martinez, the nation’s highest legal officer, has close ties to Odebrecht and its local partner, Grupo AVAL. Martinez served as external counsel to Ruta del Sol. In that capacity, he rendered a favorable legal opinion in 2012 regarding an addendum to the Ruta del Sol concession contract, which is the main object of the investigation. The addendum consisted of adding to the original contract the construction of the Ocaña-Gamarra road section. Martinez later approved the addition of the Ocana-Gamarra road section in October of 2014, while serving as the Chief of Staff to President Santos. Further, Martinez has been the external counsel to the Grupo AVAL for nearly two decades.
Although the Prosecutors in the case have admitted that I did not receive any money, they claim that I favored Odebrecht with my decisions as head of ANI, yielding to the lobbying efforts of corrupt politicians. It is absurd! I was doing just the opposite: fighting so that that Odebrecht and its partners would not take hundreds of millions from the Colombian people.
To make it more concerning, all executives from Odebrecht and Grupo AVAL who might have authorized or known about the illegal payments, according to press reports, are not being charged or being charged with lesser offenses by the Prosecutor. On the contrary, I am under preventive detention and facing the highest number of charges, with a potential sentence of 30 years in prison. To top it up, the Prosecutors are threatening me with additional charges
I am afraid I am being used as a scapegoat to avoid investigating the real culprits. That is why I am making a public plea to the U.S. Government to ensure that Colombia’s Attorney General stops abusing his prosecutorial discretion and refrain from using fake evidence to determine my fate.
It is not just a case against me. If corruption prevails in Colombian institutions, the U.S. Government is unlikely to succeed in the efforts to curb drug-trafficking and organized crime.