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Corficolombiana affiliate to appeal court ruling over road project scandal

Corporación Financiera Colombiana SA, or Corficolombiana, said its affiliate Episol disagreed with a court's ruling that found the company had participated in a wide-reaching corruption scandal connected to a highway project in which scandal-plagued Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht was also involved, according to a regulatory filing.

A district court in the Colombian department of Cundinamarca found that Episol was jointly responsible in criminal activity with Odebrecht, which has confessed to paying bribes. Episol is a minority shareholder in Concesionaria Ruta del Sol SAS, a company that operated under Odebrecht's Ruta del Sol higway project.

According to Corficolombiana, the affiliate company will appeal the ruling. "Episol is not responsible for crimes committed by third parties, it trusts the respect for due process and reiterates its interest to collaborate with the authorities," the Colombian company said.

Corficolombiana is owned by Grupo Aval Acciones y Valores SA, which in November denied any involvement in the sudden death of a key witness in the case. "Contrary to what has been said, Grupo Aval and Corficolombiana have immediately made available to the authorities all the information that they have been informed about in this case," the company had said in a statement.

The group also reiterated its "absolute support" for all investigations linked to the Odebrecht scandal. Jorge Enrique Pizano, the witness who died, had reportedly flagged what he saw as suspicious payments made by Odebrecht and Grupo Aval in the granting of Ruta del Sol contracts as early as 2013.

Meanwhile, in August 2017, a former Corficolombiana executive was detained as part of a corruption and bribery case linked to the Ruta del Sol 2 concession. Grupo Aval, however, maintained that it did not engage in any corruption practices.

Odebrecht is embroiled in a large graft scandal in Latin America and has admitted to bribing government officials in 12 countries, including Colombia. Prosecutors in Colombia believe the company paid $27 million to secure the Ruta del Sol contract, which was canceled in February 2017 after evidence of bribery surfaced.