Dominican judge sends 6 to trial in giant Odebrecht scandal
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) — A judge in the Dominican Republic on Friday ordered a former Senate president, an ex-public works minister and four other people to stand trial in a bribery scandal involving Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.
Judge Francisco Ortega Polanco sent ex-Senate leader Andrés Bautista, former public works minister Víctor Díaz Rúa, businessman Ángel Rondón and three others to trial in the corruption case, which has toppled former presidents and business and political leaders across Latin America and the Caribbean.
Of the seven suspects being investigated in the Dominican Republic, only former Senate president Jesús Vázquez was spared trial.
Prosecutors allege Bautista took bribes from Odebrecht for the Northwest Aqueduct Line expansion and the Palomino Hydroelectric Plant project. They say he introduced 1.8 billion Dominican pesos ($36 million at the current exchange rate) into the banking system in less than 15 years.
Díaz Rúa and Rondón are accused of being major beneficiaries of the alleged corruption scheme.
All deny the charges against them. As he left the court, Bautista said the “judge didn’t refer to the evidence that we provided.”
Dominican Attorney General Jean Alain Rodríguez called the judge’s decision “transcendental.”
“In the past 20 years, this is the corruption case with the greatest magnitude to be investigated in the Dominican Republic because of the number of accused, the level of their influence of the same and the amounts of money involved,” said Rodríguez.
Odebrecht has acknowledged paying nearly $800 million to high-profile leaders across the region in exchange for lucrative public works contracts.