Colombian ex-official sentenced to jail for Odebrecht bribes

BOGOTA (Reuters) - A Colombian judge sentenced a former vice-minister of transport to five years and two months in prison on Tuesday after the ex-official admitted to taking millions of dollars in bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

Gabriel Garcia Morales, who served under former President Alvaro Uribe, accepted $6.5 million in pay-offs to help Odebrecht [ODBES.UL] win a 2010 road construction contract valued at over $1 billion, the attorney general’s press office told Reuters.

Garcia Morales has promised to testify against other public officials who received bribes, the attorney general’s office said on Twitter.

The Brazilian firm is at the center of one of the largest corruption scandals in Latin America, and has admitted paying bribes from Peru to Panama. Ecuador jailed its vice president over the scandal and last year the company agreed to pay $3.5 billion in settlements in the United States, Brazil and Switzerland.

Colombia’s attorney general said Odebrecht paid more than $27 million in bribes in the Andean country. One former and one current lawmaker, the former director of the national infrastructure agency, and others have also been arrested in connection with the case.

Morales, who was also fined $21,000, was originally sentenced to 10 years but the sentence was reduced because he accepted responsibility.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien