Samuel Moreno Rojas—Bogotá’s mayor suspended by the Procuraduría in early May—was charged on Monday of fraudulent contracting, embezzlement and extortion in connection to corruption around public works projects. Prosecutor Ricardo Gonzalez asked the judge to keep Moreno in jail until trial out of fear that he may try to go to the United States (he was born in Miami) to avoid appearing in court. If indicted, Moreno could face at least six years in prison.
“I have not been an author, participant or decision maker in any criminal behavior,” Moreno said during the hearing in response to evidence alleging that he promised millions of dollars in public contracts to businessmen in exchange for supporting his political campaign in 2007. The so-called carrusel de la contratación (contracting carrousel) makes reference to a corruption scandal over infrastructure works in the city that were mostly given to the Nule brothers.
The carrousel involves key actors from different sectors, including former Senator Iván Moreno Rojas, Samuel’s brother, who was arrested in April this year after the Supreme Court started an investigation into his connections with the embezzlement. In February, Attorney General Viviane Morales charged Bogotá Comptroller Miguel Ángel Moralesrussi, former Director of the Urban Development Institute (IDU) Liliana Pardo and former Congressman Germán Olano with embezzlement, misappropriation and bribery.
This is the most expensive corruption scandal in the history of Bogotá. The attorney general estimates, for example, that transferring the Transmilenio contract from Transvial to Vías Bogotá, which was done under the authorization of the IDU and benefited the Nule brothers, cost the city approximately $119 million. Among other things, this has resulted in delays in expected road maintenance and other transportation improvement projects scheduled for 2009 have yet to start.
One month after Moreno was suspended, Clara López Obregón—president of the Democratic Pole party—was appointed to fill the vacancy by President Juan Manuel Santos.