Colombia seeks to 20-year block on Odebrecht bidding for tenders

View of the headquaters of Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht SA in Sao Paulo, March 2, 2017

Colombia announced Tuesday it is seeking heavy sanctions for corruption-tainted Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht that would block it from bidding for public works contracts in the country for 20 years.

Vice president Marta Lucia Ramirez called on the Superintendency of Companies -- the supervisory authority -- to impose the maximum punishment on the firm, in a letter made public Tuesday.

"This request is being made taking into account that companies of the Odebrecht group have featured in the most notorious transnational bribery and corruption case in recent years in several countries, including Colombia," she said.

Odebrecht has admitted paying $32.5 million in bribes to Colombian politicians to help secure public works contracts, including the South American country's biggest project, the so-called Ruta del Sol II highway linking the center of the country with the north.

The vice-president said the government had rejected an Odebrecht proposal to make amends for the corruption with a 30 million dollar payment, instead demanding a "corresponding pecuniary sanction" be imposed on the company.

"Accepting an enormous compensation agreement would be a perverse incentive to continue committing this type of crime," said Ramirez in the letter.

Six people have been convicted in Colombia as part of the investigation.

Odebrecht, which was investigated by the US Justice Department, agreed to pay a $3.5 billion fine after admitting to giving $788 million in bribes across 12 countries to secure contracts.

The scandal has ensnared politicians in several countries, including Mexico, Peru, Panama and Venezuela.