The Odebrecht trial is settled in the Dominican Republic with only two convictions

The trial of the Odebrecht case, the largest corruption scandal tried in the Dominican Republic, was settled this Thursday with only two convictions, a former minister and the former representative in the country of the Brazilian construction company.

Former Minister Víctor Díaz Rúa was sentenced to five years in prison for money laundering, while businessman Ángel Rondón was sentenced to eight years, when he was found guilty of distributing millionaire bribes and money laundering.

The three judges that make up the First Collegiate Court of the National District acquitted the other four defendants, including three former senators and a lawyer.

The case thus ended without convictions of politicians for receiving bribes, despite the fact that Odebrecht admitted to having distributed 92 million dollars in the country, in exchange for the illegal award of public works tenders between 2001 and 2014 and the obtaining parliamentary authorization for the corresponding loans.

"How to convict the bribe, if there are no bribes?"asked businessman Ángel Rondón, the main defendant in the case, when he left the court.

THE ENRICHMENT OF THE FORMER MINISTER

The only politician convicted is Víctor Díaz Rúa, who directed the National Institute of Potable Water and Sewers (Inapa) between 2004 and 2007 and spent the following five years at the head of the Ministry of Public Works, under the Presidency of Leonel Fernández.

The court did not see that there is sufficient evidence that Díaz Rúa received bribes, but it did consider it proven that he unlawfully enriched himself and made maneuvers to hide his assets.

When reading the ruling, the judges highlighted that the assets of the former minister went from 62 million to 218 million pesos (from 1.1 to 3.8 million dollars) between 2006 and 2008, without the defendant having been able to justify the origin of funds.

As part of the conviction, the court confiscated part of the former minister’s assets, including three companies, two buildings and a yacht, as well as two companies in the name of Rondón, which should serve to partially compensate the public coffers.

A POLITIZED CASE

The Odebrecht case caused a political earthquake in the Dominican Republic since its inception in 2017, since it hit officials of the two main political parties that have divided power in recent decades.

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The investigation caused great outrage in public opinion, causing unprecedented demonstrations against corruption and against impunity, brought together in the Green March movement, although this Thursday there was no popular rally in front of the court.

The investigation also became a weapon thrown between the parties; some defendants have always argued that they were included in the case for political reasons.

One of them, the former President of the Senate Andrés Bautista today directly accused former President Danilo Medina and the former Attorney General of the Republic Jean Alain Rodríguez of being the "responsible" having included it in the file.

"I believe that in their consciences (from Medina and Rodríguez), if they exist in those conscious beings, they must be ashamed today of their actions in life, God forbid that they do not pay on earth or in heaven for what they have done, in them evil has prevailed", affirmed the ex-legislator when leaving the court.

From various sectors of society, former attorney Rodríguez has been accused of having tried to protect politicians in his handling of the case.

At the moment, the former prosecutor is detained in preventive prison, for his alleged involvement in another case of major corruption, uncovered last June.

A CASE THAT FOLLOWS

This Thursday will not be the last chapter of the Odebrecht case, since the lawyers of the two convicts and the Prosecutor’s Office announced that they will appeal the verdict.

Also, the Prosecutor’s Office has advanced that it continues to investigate the ramifications of the case that have not been investigated until now, in what is already known as the Odebrecht 2.0 case.

In particular, the Punta Catalina thermoelectric plant is in the spotlight, tendered in 2014 and which was the largest work carried out by Odebrecht in the country, but was removed from the case in a controversial decision by the Prosecutor’s Office headed by Rodríguez at that time.

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