The fiscal investigation into Odebrecht’s corruption plot yields more data. According to judicial information reviewed by this newspaper, USD 14.5 million to pay bribes were moved in cash through armored vehicles that circulated in Quito and Guayaquil.
In these cities were the offices of the Brazilian construction company and the companies Diacelec and Conacero, now processed for money laundering. According to the investigations, USD 14.5 million came from two bank accounts that Diacelec did not report to the Prosecutor’s Office.
This company was incorporated in 1987 in Quito, for the commercialization of construction materials; its main shareholder is Édgar Arias. He was sentenced in December 2017 to six years in prison for illicit association, together with former Vice President Glas. 14 months after this ruling, the use of the armored vehicles is investigated by the Prosecutor’s Office in a case of course washing.
In this process, Arias is designated as the alleged author of a network that laundered illegal money. The Prosecutor’s Office says that his wife (a shareholder of Conacero), his son, a partner and two accountants also participated in this crime. At a hearing on February 15, Judge Ximena Rodríguez called everyone to trial for the crime of laundering.
In that file, it is indicated that Diacelec facilitated the flow of cash that former Odebrecht representative in Ecuador, José Conceição Santos, needed to pay bribes to former public officials. According to Santos, he used USD 2.4 million that Diacelec provided him in stacks of bills to pay former Comptroller Carlos Pólit.
The deliveries were made in a suite, in the north of Quito. A few meters away, on the eighth floor of a building (office 406) was an Odebrecht branch. That last address was recorded in the journals of the trips made by the armored vehicles.
Another address consigned is the Odebrecht office in Guayaquil, located in a shopping center. There they entered USD 4.3 million in cash. Odebrecht employees recalled that these bundles of tickets entered the offices in suitcases, which were carried by armed guards.
The officials told investigators that the money was given to Santos, who kept it in safes or took it to his suite. They said not to know more details. In that armored service also moved USD 9 million that were delivered to a partner of Arias and USD 355 000 more, to an accountant.
To mobilize these resources without raising alerts, the Prosecutor’s Office argues that Arias used another of his companies: Columbia Management, incorporated in Panama in 2007. In three criminal assistances sent by that country to Ecuador, it is explained that between 2010 and 2016, in in total, the construction company transferred USD 47 million to Columbia Management.
The consignments were ordered from the ‘offshores’ Constructora Internacional del Sur, Select Engineering Consulting, Klienfield, Innovation and the Meinl Bank. Most of the money was in Panama. That is why Columbia Management is also investigated there, for possible money laundering and for acts of corruption. In the case of USD 14.5 million, the money was consigned in two accounts.
Only Arias, his wife and son could order the withdrawals through armored custody and also pay for these special services. For the Office of the Prosecutor there is no logical reason why millions of dollars were moved in cash.
The investigator of the case, Ivonne Proaño, recalls that the debts that Diacelec had with its suppliers, salaries for employees and operating expenses were canceled by bank transfers. While, in petty cash, the company had sums no higher than USD 300 or 400. Arias’ lawyer, Marcel Ron, says that the use of armored vehicles is a lawful service and that there was nothing strange about that.
He explains that if Diacelec hired the security personnel to deliver millions of dollars to Odebrecht it was because the two companies had businesses in construction and “payments had to be settled”. The lawyer refuses that his client has laundered money.
According to the SRI, Diacelec recorded sales of construction material for USD 58 million, between 2012 and 2016. However, the researchers found that in the Arias companies double accounting was carried out. Some writings were hidden in the house of a company accountant.
For the authorities of the Government it is important to track which ex-employees received the bribes from Santos. That is why the Prosecutor’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, the Comptroller’s Office and the Anti-Corruption Secretariat will begin a visit to Brazil on Thursday. There they plan to meet with judicial authorities. (I)