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Ecuador News

Quito mayor candidate demands investigation of ‘illegal payments’ for city subway system

Quito mayoral candidate César Montúfar claims that Brazilian construction company Odebrecht has “almost certainly” paid bribes to city officials during the construction of the Quito Metro subway system. He says he delivered documents to the attorney general’s office last week providing the evidence.

The Quito Metro subway project is over budget and behind schedule.

Odebrecht has been at the center of more than a dozen corruption scandal investigations since 2016 and has admitted paying at least $33 million in bribes to Ecuadorian officials. The company has managed a variety of large projects in the country, including highways, power plants, refineries and oil and gas pipelines.

Among the documents Montúfar says show illegal payments are emails of bank transfers between Odebrecht and accounts at a Caribbean bank owned by Odebrecht. “Clearly, something is wrong here and I have presented documentation that more than $1.6 million in bribes have been channeled through Meinl Bank of Antigua and Barbuda related to this project.”

The Quito Metro, originally planned as a $1.5 billion project running 25 kilometers north to south through the city, has been plagued by construction delays and cost overruns. “The project is already more than $500 million over budget and three years behind schedule with very little justification data available to the public,” Montúfar says. “I do not say absolutely that bribes were paid to employees of the municipality but I do say that illegal money was paid to someone involved in the subway and have the papers to prove it. Money transfers, connected to the Metro, were made by Odebrecht through Meinl Bank.”

One of two large-scale mass transit projects authorized by the Ecuadorian government in 2010, the Metro is scheduled to begin operations next year although some consultants say it could be 2021 before the the system is ready. In its early stages, the project was managed jointly by Odebrecht and the Spanish company Acciona with Acciona assuming full responsibility following revelations of bribery charges against Odebrecht.

The city office coordinating Metro construction labels Montúfar’s charges “campaign rhetoric” and current mayor Maricio Rodas, says that there is “no credible evidence” of corruption during his term in office. Rodas is not seeking reelection.