3 July 2019
María Victoria Guarín was an investment officer for a World Bank unit, known as the International Finance Corporation, or IFC, a private-sector arm of the World Bank. She was also a key adviser on Colombia’s biggest-ever transportation project: a 1,000-kilometre (620-mile) highway across mountainous terrain connecting the capital to busy Caribbean ports. She was also married to a senior executive of a company that won part of the very contract she helped to oversee. That apparent conflict of interest has now dragged the bank into the edges of Latin America’s biggest corruption scandal.
The Grupo Aval conglomerate that employed Guarín’s husband was partnered with Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction giant that has admitted to paying $6.5 million in bribes to one of dozens of projects it now acknowledges winning through illegal payments.
An antitrust administrative complaint was filed in September against Guarín and several others. In the complaint the IFC is accused of failing to act on Guarín’s potential conflict of interest for nearly two years, even as she allegedly tilted the bidding process for part of the $2.6 billion contract in favour of her husband’s employer. Her husband, Diego Solano, was also implicated.
There are no indications that Guarín and Solano financially benefited from the contract. But a judge in April, while imposing an 11-year sentence against José Melo, the CEO of the Aval unit in the consortium, asked Colombia’s attorney general to investigate the couple’s involvement in the award of the contract.
Time reported.