Executives facing criminal charges related to Ituango hydroelectric project

Current and former executives of companies associated with Colombia’s 2.4-GW Ituango hydroelectric project face criminal charges for alleged irregularities related to the project, BNamericas is reporting.

Investigations are centered on the contracting, planning and management of the project, in Colombia’s northwestern Antioquia department, the local attorney general’s office said in a statement.

Luis Gomez, former manager of Hidroituango SA, and Luis Velez, the former head of EPM Ituango, have been charged with breaches related to the tendering process. Eight other individuals involved in the project and its related companies are also under investigation.

In addition, prosecutors are probing the response of project owner EPM to alleged environmental and social risks arising from the dam’s construction problems.

“The attorney general’s office has designed a methodological plan … to comprehend the difficulties that have arisen in [the project’s] execution and establish possible criminal responsibilities,” the statement said.

EPM denied any wrongdoing and said it would fully cooperate with investigators. “EPM has acted transparently and within the framework of what the law allows,” the company said in a statement on Thursday. “The company reiterates its permanent disposition to collaborate with prosecutors.”

Construction work at Ituango was halted last April after serious structural faults prompted fears of catastrophic flooding.

And in January 2019, we reported that a sinkhole had been discovered near the project.

Budgeted at US$4 billion before the problems began, Ituango is the country’s largest infrastructure project in investment terms. The facility is slated to supply more than 17% of Colombia’s electricity when fully operational.

EPM, which is owned by the city of Medellin, has said the plant’s operational startup will be postponed by at least three years to December 2021 in a best-case scenario.


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