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Colombia – Corruption hits Colombian lottery sector

By - 30 March 2015

Ex head of the Lottery Board for the state of Huila, Carlos Hernando Ordoñez Acevedo has been arrested along with a former member of the lottery tender board José William Sánchez Plaza, and legal representative of firm Apuestas Nacionales Gustavo Guevara Aldana, for alleged irregularities in the awarding of a lottery licence worth millions of dollars.

The charges revolve around alleged favouritism during the awarding of the licence to the company in 2008. Claims of wrong doing are now emerging with former governor of the province Jorge Luis Sánchez saying that the negotiation for the tender process had been carried out “behind his back.”

According to Sánchez, lottery officials and members of the company had colluded together to ensure the awarding of the contract in order to favour the firm. The contract was worth around US$ 5.8m for the period between 2008 to 2013 according to Mario Montes, Head of the Anti-Corruption Unit of the National Prosecutor’s Office, who said that this is only the first phase of an ongoing investigation.

All three men have been indicted by a prosecutor for the National Anticorruption Directorate, on a number of corruption charges in what is could be an emblematic case in Colombia’s war against corruption. In addition the prosecuting body did not rule out that other public servants could soon be linked to the investigation.

“We are sending a clear message: The Office is committed to the fight against corruption and that these acts of corruption . . . will not go unpunished,” said a member of the Attorney General’s Office.
The awarding of the licence was mired in controversy from the start. Two months after having been declared void after serious inconsistencies were found in the bids of all three of the bidders the contract was awarded in total secrecy. This was despite the objections made by the local Assembly, and government control bodies. The lottery was finally launched in October 2008 and within three months the firm had showed serious inadequacies and shortcomings when it came to its managing of the lottery.
While gaming continues to develop in Colombia lotteries have long been a controversial issue with many lotteries going bankrupt and others have been unable to award prizes. As far back as 2007 it was revealed that there were 163 ongoing investigations into lotteries in Colombia for supposed irregularities in their contribution to the health sector.

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