Ecuador Vice President Detained Amid Probe of Alleged Odebrecht Links

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A judge in Ecuador ordered Vice President Jorge Glas detained as an investigation looks into whether he took bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, in what could be the latest example of the remarkable success of the corporation’s massive international bribery scheme.

On October 2, Supreme Court judge Miguel Jurado accepted Ecuador Attorney General Carlos Baca Mancheno’s request for Vice President Glas and his uncle Ricardo Rivera to be arrested and held in jail while the probe proceeds, according to a press release from the Attorney General’s Office. 

At the hearing, Baca Mancheno presented a report that documented a $150,000 payment made to a person identified as “uncle,” which he says is “unequivocal” evidence of Glas’ alleged involvement in the Odebrecht bribe scheme. 

The Brazilian firm admitted last year to systematically paying off officials in various countries in exchange for help obtaining public contracts. In Ecuador’s case, the company said it had paid more than $33 million in bribes to Ecuadorean officials between 2007 and 2016.

SEE ALSO: Ecuador News and Profile

“I accept under protest this outrageous attack against me,” Glas said on his Twitter account on October 2. “I still have faith that justice will prevail. I will prove my innocence.” 

Glas was detained early on October 3. The official vice presidential Twitter account posted a message saying Glas would “make use of his vacation days” while in prison.

InSight Crime Analysis 

Glas is the highest-ranking Ecuadorean official to be jailed in connection with the Odebrecht scandal, but he is just one in a long line of similar cases throughout Latin America.

In Peru, for example, former President Alejandro Toledo and former presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori have both been accused of taking money from the construction giant. And several top officials in the Dominican Republic have been remanded to pretrial detention for their alleged involvement in the bribe scheme.

SEE ALSO: InDepth Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime

Odebrecht’s ability to buy off so many top officials around the region suggests that weak institutions and other factors have made these countries susceptible to this type of graft.

At the same time, it also suggests that the company — which was one of the largest of its kind in the world at the peak of the bribe scheme — was very efficient in its drive to corrupt officials. According to one media account, Rodrigo Tacla Durán, the former head of Odebrecht’s “Bribery Department,” said that no politicians were able to resist Odebrecht’s offers.

Prosecutions of politicians like Glas may deter other officials from taking bribes in the future, but powerful elite interests often have a stake in maintaining the structural conditions that facilitate corruption, complicating efforts to achieve sweeping, systemic anti-graft reforms.

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