15 November 2018
Colombian attorney-general has opened an investigation into the death of Jorge Enrique Pizano (pictured), a key witness in the Odebrecht’s corruption trial. Forensic experts became suspicious when Mr Pizano’s son who travelled from Barcelona to attend his father’s funeral, took a swig from a bottle of flavoured water which was standing on his father’s desk. He immediately became violently ill and died on the way to hospital. Doctors diagnosed cyanide poisoning.
The investigators are re-examining the forensic tests carried out on his father’s body. The possibility that Pizano’s death was not due to natural causes has led to many speculating about who could have wanted to silence him. He worked as an auditor for the Ruta del Sol (Sun Route), one of Colombia’s biggest infrastructure projects consisting of 1,000km stretch of motorway. The contract was awarded to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht and its local partners. But Odebrecht’s concession was cancelled in February 2017 after it was found out that the company had paid bribes amounting to $27m to get the contract.
Odebrecht which is at the centre of a massive corruption scandal, made a plea deal with the US justice department, in which it has admitted paying bribes in 12 countries, including Colombia.
Pizano flagged several irregular payments to Néstor Humberto Martínez, who was Grupo Aval’s legal adviser at the time and is now Colombia’s attorney-general. Mr Martínez said in a statement that he did not think that these were bribes but nevertheless he had passed on Mr Pizano’s concerns to company officials at the time.
Mr Pizano in 2015 he made an audio recording of himself flagging up the payments to Néstor Humberto Martínez. He handed Colombian news programme Noticias Uno reporter the audio recording he had made for safekeeping either until he was safe in another country or for publication in the case of his death. Noticias Uno broadcast the audio on Sunday night and it has triggered calls for Mr Martínez to resign. He has recused himself from the Odebrecht probe due to his prior role.
Grupo Aval has also initiated an internal audit into Mr Pizano’s suspicions. BBC reported.