SANTO DOMINGO – Politicians in the Dominican Republic were scrambling on Tuesday to cope with the fallout from the indictment of a Cabinet minister and other powerful figures for allegedly accepting millions of dollars in bribes.
Attorney General Jean Alain Rodriguez announced Monday that he was charging 14 people in connection with the scandal surrounding Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which admitted to having paid $92 million in kickbacks to secure public works contracts in the Caribbean nation between 2001 and 2014.
Ten of the defendants, including Industry and Trade Minister Temistocles Montas and the chairman of the main opposition PRM party, Andres Bautista, are in custody and were expected to face a judge later Tuesday.
Rodriguez said that he will ask for the defendants to be held up to 18 months pending trial.
The legislature is considering motions to revoke the immunity of three other defendants: Sens. Julio Cesar Valentin and Tommy Galan, both with the ruling PLD party, and PRM congressman Alfredo Pacheco.
Bautista issued a statement Tuesday denying the charges and vowing that he will defend his “honor and dignity.”
Valentin, Galan, and Pacheco have likewise proclaimed their innocence and suggested that they were ready to waive their parliamentary immunity.
Shortly after his arrest on Monday, Montas said that in 16 years as a public official, he “had never been connected directly or indirectly with unseemly or illegal actions.”
The minister also put his Cabinet post at the disposal of President Danilo Medina, who has not commented publicly on the accusations against Montas.
Another person charged in the case, engineer and former state electric company employee, Bernardo Castellanos, said Tuesday from Panama that he would return immediately to face justice.
Among the others already in custody are Angel Rondon, Odebrecht’s former representative in the Dominican Republic, accused of having distributed the payoffs; and former Public Works Minister Victor Diaz Rua.
Last month, Odebrecht agreed to pay the Dominican government $184 million – double the amount of the bribes – to settle the case.
Odebrecht also agreed to reveal the names of the individuals who accepted bribes in exchange for its employees not being charged with crimes in the Caribbean nation.
The Dominican AG’s office received that information two weeks ago.