SEMANA, February 15, 2022

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

 The contractor Emilio Tapia Aldana, Luis Fernando Duque, and Juan José Laverde will be tried for the crimes of falsifying a private document and fraudulent procedure in connection with the controversial Contract 1043, signed in 2020 between the Ministry of Information Technology and the temporary joint venture, Centros Poblados (Population Centers).

SEMANA was the first to learn the details of the criminal complaint filed by the Attorney General’s Office against the three contractors accused of having misappropriated the down payment of 70,000 million pesos (roughly USD $17,700,000). The contract was for building 7,277 virtual education centers in the departments of Amazonas, Arauca, Bogotá, Bolívar, Boyacá, Casanare, Cauca, Chocó, Cundinamarca, Magdalena, Nariño, Putumayo, Quindío, Risaralda, Valle del Cauca, and Vichada.

The prosecutors allege that, Luis Fernando Duque—legal representative of the temporary joint venture—Juan José Laverde—delegate of the Rave Insurance Agency—and Emilio Tapia—who put the venture together—falsified insurance policies and certificates so as to be able to take part in the bidding process that was carried out in July of 2020, thus obtaining the contract with a total value of 2.1 “billones” (trillions) of pesos (roughly USD $532,000,000).

In the charging document, which was assigned to Branch 40 of the Instruction Court of Bogotá, WhatsApp chats are cited, along with telephone records, documents, and sworn testimony, which place in evidence the manner in which the “criminal enterprise” would be benefited by the contract worth “billones”.

The prosecutors’ theory of the case is clear: Tapia, Laverde, and Duque carried out a series of actions that induced the MinTIC officials, in charge of overseeing the bidding process to make the mistake of awarding them the contract with “billones” (trillions).

In order to comply with the bidding procedure, they presented a bid bond that guaranteed coverage of any problem or delay. This document, issued by the Itaú Bank, protected against the expense of unforeseen circumstances, and against the loss of the money that was to be paid out.

After signing the contract, MinTIC paid out the 70,000 million pesos (roughly USD $17,700,000) as the down payment for the purchase of the equipment to be installed in the first virtual centers. However, there soon began to be constant failures in contract performance, and the contractors never offered any justification for the delays.

Because of that, in the middle of August of 2021, a hearing on proposed termination of the contract was arranged. In that proceeding, a representative of the Itaú Bank confirmed what many had feared: the insurance policies offered by the temporary joint venture had never been issued; rather, the documents had been falsified.

A complaint was immediately filed with the Attorney General’s Office, the Inspector General’s Office and the Controller’s Office, so that the respective investigations could be carried out.

How did they accomplish the fraud?

The prosecutors maintain that the three defendants knew very well that the insurance policy had been falsified. Therefore, they contacted Jorge Alfonso Molina García-Mayorga, who had knowledge and experience in handling bid bonds for contracts of this type.

After agreeing on payment, García-Mayorga furnished the falsified bid bonds. Luis Fernando Duque was in charge, along with Alfredo Amín Yamber, of uploading the documents onto the Electronic Public Contracting System (Secop) to finalize the accomplishment of the bid process.

The down payment intended for the purchase of equipment was deposited in a bank set up in the State of Delaware (United States). The work of Juan Carlos Ángel Cáceres Bayona, who was the owner of the Nuovotic Company, was key to that transaction.

After the scandal exploded Tapia, Laverde, and Duque used different kinds of pressure to dodge the investigation and claim they had nothing to do with the fraud, detailing that they knew nothing about the falsified bid bonds.

Two witnesses were pressured, using Attorney Daniel González, hired by Emilio Tapia. The lawyer told the two of them that the contractors would take charge of paying all of the cost of their defense, if they would confess and say that they had been responsible for the corruption.

Those facts, according to the witnesses, were presented on June 22, 2021, two days before the contract was to be dissolved. The purpose would be to allege their individual responsibility so that the temporary joint venture would be excused.

In the case of Bedoya, the threats went a step further. The founding partner of Novotic and Nuvo Security LLC reported that on one occasion, heavily armed men forced their way into his house and threatened him and his young son, intimidating him so that he would not talk about the events he had witnessed.

With this kind of activity, according to the prosecutors, they were trying to fend off the actions of the authorities, and thus affect the development of the investigation of this serious corruption scandal.

The other case

At the end of December 2021, Attorney General Francisco Barbosa announced a second charge for the crimes of embezzlement of public funds, falsifying a public document, and procedural fraud. In the list you see our old friends Juan José Laverde, Emilio Tapia Aldana, and Luis Fernando Duque. Added to those are business owners Ottomar Lascarro Torres and Juan Carlos Cáceres.

This new case is related to the misappropriation of the down payment of 70,000 million pesos (roughly USD $17,700,000). The initial appearance on these charges is scheduled for this coming February 23.

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