(Adds details on people indicted, attorney general comment)
By Jorge Pineda
SANTO DOMINGO May 29 Nearly a dozen people,
including current and former top officials, were arrested in the
Dominican Republic early Monday for ties to $92 million in
bribes paid by the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht to
obtain public works contracts.
Those arrested included Victor Diaz Rua, who had previously
served as the country's public works minister, as well as the
Caribbean island's trade minister, Temistocles Montas, who
tendered his resignation in a letter Monday.
Prosecutors across Latin America are making arrests after
Odebrecht and its petrochemical subsidiary Braskem
admitted late last year to bribing officials around the region.
In a press conference at the Justice Ministry, Attorney
General Jean A. Rodriguez announced the names of the 14 people,
including officials and lawmakers sought for crimes including
money laundering, bribes and submitting false financial
Ten were arrested in the Dominican Republic and another was
being sought in Panama, Rodriguez said. He said the probe began
last December in collaboration with Brazilian and U.S.
authorities and that more charges could be forthcoming.
"We conducted 35 interrogations, reviewed financial
statements and tax records which revealed unjustified wealth;
who took the bribes and under what scenario," Rodriguez said.
Some were skeptical about how deep the probe would go. "They
are going to try to bury it all," said Marco Fernandez, a
co-founder of the ruling Dominican Liberation Party (PLD).
Andres Bautista, a former congressional leader who now leads
the opposition Modern Revolutionary Party (PRM), was among those
"It's now up to the judges to accept or reject the 18 months
of pretrial detention against the defendants," Rodriguez said.
Prosecutors have also asked Congress to wave immunity for
one lower house lawmaker, Alfredo Pacheco, and two senators,
Tommy Galan and Julio Valentin. Lawmakers across Latin America
enjoy such protection from prosecution while in office.
In December, Odebrecht and petrochemical subsidiary Braskem
reached a record $3.5 billion settlement with
Brazilian, U.S. and Swiss authorities. Odebrecht admitted to
bribing officials in 12 countries.
More details could soon emerge of those cases as a deal
between Odebrecht executives and Brazilian prosecutors to
withhold details from the public expires this week.
(Writing by Michael O'Boyle; Editing by David Gregorio and