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Colombian prosecutors on Odebrecht graft case to travel to Brazil

Reuters

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombian prosecutors investigating Brazil's Odebrecht [ODBES.UL] for corruption will travel to that country next week to look for evidence that the construction conglomerate bribed politicians and sent funds to presidential campaigns, an official said on Friday.

Attorney General Nestor Humberto Martinez has said a portion of $4.6 million that Odebrecht allegedly paid a former senator accused of graft might have been funneled to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos' 2014 reelection campaign.

But Martinez has admitted that his office has no evidence to back up the allegations made by ex-Liberal Party Senator Otto Bula Bula, who was arrested last month on charges of bribery and illicit enrichment.

Martinez, two magistrates from the national electoral council and a team from the investigator general's office will meet with Brazilian head procurator Rodrigo Janot, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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The campaign of Santos's 2014 right-wing rival, Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, is also under investigation.

Both Santos and Zuluaga have denied the allegations and called for a thorough investigation

U.S. prosecutors said Odebrecht had paid hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes for contracts for projects in 12 countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela, between 2002 and 2016.

Odebrecht and affiliated petrochemical company Braskem SA pleaded guilty in a U.S. court in December and agreed to pay at least $3.5 billion to settle with U.S., Brazilian and Swiss authorities.

A court in Bogota on Friday said it had temporarily suspended the contract for the Ruta del Sol Dos highway project, which prosecutors say Odebrecht won in 2009 through bribery of a roadway official.

Colombia's companies regulator said on Friday it would apply special oversight to Odebrecht and Navelena, a consortium tasked with a navigability project on the Magdalena River. Odebrecht has an 87 percent stake in the consortium.

The companies are allowed to continue routine transactions for construction materials and other expenses but cannot move money out of Colombia or make changes to their legal structure.

Chinese construction company Sinohydro is negotiating with Odebrecht to replace the Brazilian company in the Magdalena River project, a government official said.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta and Carlos Vargas; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Helen Murphy and Meredith Mazzilli)