Global Investigations around the World: Colombia

By Marcela Cristina Blanco and Marcelo Buendía.

1. Identify the highest-profile corporate investigation under way in your country, describing and commenting on its most noteworthy aspects.

The highest-profile corporate investigation in Colombia is that against Odebrecht, not only for the amounts involved in the illegal transactions but also for the number of people who have been investigated, indicted or convicted. According to the Attorney General’s Office of Colombia, amounts paid in bribes in this case exceeded 148 billion pesos. Additionally, more than 120 persons have been tied to this investigation; 54 persons have been indicted and 18 persons have been convicted, including a vice minister and a senator.

2. Outline the legal framework for corporate liability in your country.

There are no criminal proceedings (prosecutions) against companies under Colombian law. Investigation of legal entities is purely administrative and independent from the criminal liability of natural persons. However, a corporation can face the following sanctions:

-cancellation of its legal status within the criminal procedure when it is proved that the legal entity was used, totally or partially, to commit crimes;
-imposition of civil liability within the criminal procedure when a director or employee is involved in the criminal process for having committed corruption offences. This liability is ancillary because it depends on the conviction of the employee or director;
-debarment ipso jure after directors or controller partners are criminally convicted;
-in antitrust cases, imposition of significant fines within an administrative proceeding led by the Superintendence of Industry and Commerce;