QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Ecuador's congress cleared the way Friday for Vice President Jorge Glas to be investigated for allegedly taking bribes from a Brazilian construction giant involved in a sprawling regional graft scandal.
The unanimous vote by the legislature makes Glas the highest-ranking official in Ecuador to be probed for purportedly receiving some of the $33 million that Brazil's Odebrecht has acknowledged paying in exchange for contracts.
Glas has denied any wrongdoing and refused to resign, while accusing President Lenin Moreno of betraying the legacy of former President Rafael Correa. Glas has not been charged with a crime and in fact had asked lawmakers to green-light the investigation so he could clear his name before the courts.
The nation's top prosecutor says there are numerous indications linking Glas to corruption, including a recently surfaced audio recording in which an Odebrecht executive and an Ecuadorean official discuss alleged bribe requests made by the vice president.
Friday's vote authorized prosecutors to investigate and file charges if they find any criminal responsibility.
Glas and Moreno both served as vice president during the 2007-2017 presidency of Correa, but a rift has opened between the former running mates amid the allegations weighing over Glas. Moreno stripped his vice president of all responsibilities earlier this month.
The Odebrecht scandal has already led to the June resignation of Ecuador's comptroller general as well as the arrest of an ex-minister of electricity, Glas' uncle and former executives of state oil company Petroecuador, among others implicated.
Prosecutors are reviewing 30 Odebrecht contracts granted by Ecuador between 1980 and 2015, including ones from Correa's administration worth about $1.6 billion.
There has also been a split between Moreno and Correa, who was ineligible to run for re-election in this year's vote. The two have been engaged in a public spat in recent months, often via sniping on social media.