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Colombia cops seize 70 properties from pols in ‘carousel contracts’ scandal

Former Bogota Mayor Samuel MorenoColombia’s Prosecutor General’s Office ordered the seizure last week of over 70 properties belonging to four current and two former Bogota council members accused of graft.

The politicians allegedly awarded public contracts to private firms in exchange for kickbacks, Colombia Reports said.

The properties included luxury apartments in Bogota.

The investigation centers on so-called carousel contracts — “where the money goes in a circle . . . allegedly from the government officials to the private companies and then back to the officials,” the report said.

The property seizures were describes as “precautionary.”

The six council members allegedly took kickbacks from a private construction conglomerate, the Nule Group.

The contacts under scrutiny were for construction of the third phase of Bogota’s bus transit system, TransMilenio.

The four current councilors under investigation are Omar Mejia Baez, Jorge Ernesto, Fernando Lopez, and Javier Manuel Palacio Mejia, the Colombia Record said.

The two former councilors are Jose Fernando Rojas Rodriguez and Rafael Alberto Escruceria.

“The construction suffered from irregular stoppages leading many to suspect the delays were intentional in order to increase the amount of public funds awarded to the project,” Colombia Reports said.

Former Bogota Mayor Samuel Moreno was suspended from office in 2011 and jailed for his involvement in the carousel contracts scandal.

He has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial on charges of extortion, bribery and embezzlement.

He and his brother, a member of Colombia’s senate, allegedly took kickbacks of $5.5 million for the TransMilenio project.

Four businessmen from the Nule Group are serving prison sentences of six to seven years after their convictions in the scandal.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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