A Medellín criminal judge acquitted the engineers on Wednesday Luis Guillermo Gomez Atehortuaformer manager of Sociedad Hidroituango, and Luis Javier Velez Duqueformer legal representative of the subsidiary EPM Ituango, of incurring in the crime of improper celebration of contractsafter being accused by the Prosecutor of commit irregularities in that megaproject.
The decision, made by the 18th Criminal Court of the Medellín Circuit, was reflected in a 426-page ruling, in which no basis was found for the accusations made by the Prosecutor’s Office.
“Acquit the engineers (…) of civil and personal conditions outlined above, for conduct punishable by contract without compliance with legal requirements enshrined in article 410 of the Penal Code,” the ruling reads.
Juan Carlos Álvarez, lawyer for the defense team of Vélez Duque, celebrated the decision and assured that it constitutes a precedent with a view to the process opened by the Prosecutor’s Office for Hidroituango, in which one of its lines consists of finding those responsible for the Boomt contract ( for its acronym in Build, Own Operate, Maintain and Transfer).
As that accusing body had raised in August 2019, in his opinion, the signing of that contract had constituted a crime for have been done directlyleaving out other companies that were interested in bidding for the work and that had even already participated in an international prequalification process.
According to Álvarez, the accusation was dismissed after the defense managed to sustain that both EPM and the Company they had fulfilled the requirements stipulated in the law and that the principle of transparency had not been violated nor had the public interest been affected.
Despite being a direct contract, Álvarez warned that in the trial it was defended that the Institute for the Development of Antioquia (Idea) and EPM They had full power to define what was the best way to carry out the project and that, within this panorama, the most viable alternative would have been to opt for a contractual scheme in which one of them would take charge of it.
In addition to insisting that during the preparation of the BOOMT contract, both parties would have guaranteed transparency and compliance with all the rules, Álvarez added that they also managed to demonstrate that the public interest was not affected at any time, since EPM is a public company with experience that, contrary to causing harm, offered better guarantees to safeguard the project.
“This decision sets an important precedentbecause a judge saw that the contract is legal and there would be no reason for those who promoted the contract to have an undue interest,” said the lawyer, pointing out that, under the same logic, other implicated parties should also be acquitted in the future, like the former mayor of Medellín, Alonso Salazar; the former governor of Antioquia, Luis Alfredo Ramos; and the former director of Idea, Álvaro Vásquez.
Despite this decision, during the hearing in which the ruling was made known, the Prosecutor’s Office He anticipated that he will appeal it before the Criminal Chamber of the Superior Court of Medellín. To formulate its arguments, the prosecuting entity will have a period of five business days to file a brief. After that term expires, then there will be a period of four days for the defense team and the Attorney General’s Office to present their observations.