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Ecuador VP sentenced to 6 years in Odebrecht corruption case

Ecuador’s vice president Jorge Glas (centre) was sentenced to six years in jail for taking bribes from Brazilian company Odebrecht. Source: Dolores Ochoa/AP.

This material belongs to: Washington Post.

QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuador’s vice president was sentenced to six years in prison Wednesday after a court convicted him of illicit association in a scheme to accept bribes from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

A lawyer for the latest Latin American politician to fall in the wide-reaching Odebrecht corruption scandal said Glas would appeal the decision.

National Court Judge Edgar Flores read the ruling as dozens of Glas supporters clamored for his release outside the court before rows of police officers dressed in black riot gear.

Flores described Glas as one of five perpetrators, including his uncle, who orchestrated a plot to favor contracts from Odebrecht in exchange for millions in bribes. In addition to getting six years in prison, the men were ordered to pay $33.5 million, the amount Odebrecht has acknowledged paying to Ecuadorean officials.

“This is an historic sentence,” said Carlos Montufar, an Ecuadorean politician. “It should serve as the start of an important opening to strengthen institutions and restore democracy.”

Politicians across the region have been charged or are under investigation for purportedly taking bribes or illegal campaign contributions from Odebrecht over the last decade. The company admitted in a plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department that it paid bribes to win lucrative public works contracts across Latin America and in other regions.

Glas is an engineer by training who has served as vice president since 2013 and was ordered jailed in early October by the nation’s Supreme Court during the investigation. He repeatedly denied accepting any bribes from Odebrecht and refused to resign.

“We will continue in the fight today more than ever to triumph against injustice,” Eduardo Franco, Glas’ attorney, said on Twitter. “There was no evidence against him.”

Former President Rafael Correa also decried the ruling on Twitter, saying the trial was full of irregularities and had only one true motive: to remove Glas from power. “They convicted an innocent!” he wrote.

Correa, who left office after a decade in power earlier this year, has been in a deepening dispute with his hand-picked successor as president, Lenin Moreno, who he accuses of betraying the legacy of his “21st century socialist” revolution.

Moreno has distanced himself from his one-time political mentor since his April election, exposing corruption, courting conservative business leaders and trying to make amends with groups that Correa shunned, including the media.

Moreno named an interim vice president in October to fill in for Glas during the investigation, though Glas technically remains second in command of the Andean nation. Under Ecuadorean law, the title can only be removed through formal resignation, a three-quarters vote by members of the national assembly or after three months of abandoning the post, which will transpire in January.

This story has been corrected to show there were four other defendants besides the vice president.

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