A federal investigation has resulted in the recovery of $13.5 million in bribes paid by the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. According to Diana Salazar, director of the Financial and Economic Analysis Unit (UAFE), it is the first significant “repatriation of corrupt money” since investigations began three years ago.
The return of the $13.5 million was announced Monday when Tomislav Topic, manager of the communication company Telconet, committed to a repayment plan to the government. Topic said he had received the money from Ricardo Rivera, uncle of former vice president Jorge Glas, although he says he did know that it was part of bribes paid by Odebrecht.
The money was an investment in a submarine fiber optic cable project in which Topic and his wife were investors, investigators say.
According to Salazar, the $13.5 million was originally deposited by Odebrecht into the Hong Kong bank account of the “shell company” Glory International owned by Rivera. Salazar says she has no reason to believe Topic was aware of the source of the money.
“This money, transferred from Glory International to Mr. Topic’s personal bank account was to be invested in the project called Pacific Caribbean Cable System, a work of submarine fiber optic cable that would connect Ecuador with the Caribbean and the U.S. using Telconet owned by Tomislav Topic and Jan Topic to hide these funds,” Salazar wrote in investigation report.
She added that Topic has agreed to cooperate in the investigation, which is continuing.
Rivera and Glas are currently serving prison terms on corruption convictions.