BOGOTA, Feb 16 (Reuters) - Colombian regulators ordered the nullification of a major road construction contract that had been awarded to Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht and local partners, amid a Latin America-wide bribery scandal.
The project had been suspended by a court order last week, pending the final decision of commerce regulators. The cancellation of the contract for the Ruta del Sol 2 highway opens a new bidding process.
Odebrecht pleaded guilty in U.S. court and agreed to a $3.5 billion penalty for paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes in association with projects in 12 countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela.
“In an effort to restore free economic competition, the Superintendence has ordered the National Infrastructure Agency to immediately terminate the contract,” the regulators said in a statement.
Odebrecht controlled 62 percent of the project to build the 528-km (328-mile) highway, while holding company Corficolombiana had a 33 percent share through its subsidiary Episol and CSS Constructores had the remaining 5 percent stake.
The contract has been valued at 5 trillion pesos, about $1.7 billion.
Odebrecht has agreed to pay $11 million in fines to Colombia and the company may be prevented from bidding on future public works projects and obliged to terminate current contracts.
Corficolombiana said on Wednesday that it had no knowledge of any corrupt acts committed by Odebrecht and that it had asked Colombian authorities to consider it a victim in the scandal.
An ex-senator and former vice minister of transport have both been arrested for allegedly receiving more than $11 million in bribes from Odebrecht. (Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra and Carlos Vargas; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Peter Cooney)