November 20, 2018 / 2:03 PM / a month ago

Colombia seeks to ban Odebrecht from state contracts for 20 years

BOGOTA, Nov 20 (Reuters) - Colombia’s government has asked the nation’s company regulator to ban Brazilian construction company Odebrecht from state contracts for 20 years after it acknowledged paying bribes.

The petition to the regulator was made late Monday by Colombian Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez and Carlos Gomez, head of the agency that oversees state legal defense.

“This is one of the worst attacks committed against the morality of the nation, which has caused a serious detriment in public finances and has been the source of serious damage to public ethics,” the letter said.

Odebrecht did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Odebrecht has been at the center of Latin America’s biggest graft scandal, acknowledging in 2016 that it bribed officials in a dozen countries.

According to the attorney general’s office, Odebrecht’s bribes in Colombia totaled about $30 million. Odebrecht has admitted paying the bribes.

Fourteen people involved in the corruption scandal have been jailed in Colombia, including an ex-senator and a former transport minister.

Odebrecht, in partnership with a local company, was in charge of the construction of a 528-kilometer stretch of a highway to the Caribbean coast, a contract of more than $1 billion. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Helen Murphy; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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