The family of a witness in the Odebrecht bribery scandal who was found dead on Thursday said that their loved one had killed himself, according to Semana magazine.
The death of Rafael Merchan, who was former President Juan Manuel Santos’ transparency secretary between 2010 and 2014, was a “personal and autonomous decision,” his family reportedly said.
According to Semana, the family said that Merchan’s apparent suicide had nothing to do with his previous government positions that led him to become a witness in one of the most damaging corruption scandals of the past decade.
Merchan is the second Odebrecht witness to die within two months; key witness Jorge Enrique Pizano died early last month, three days before his son died of cyanide poisoning.
The deaths are further complicating the investigation into the bribery practices in which President Ivan Duque, chief prosecutor Nestor Humberto Martinez and former Presidents Santos and Alvaro Uribe are also implicated.
Colombia’s Supreme Court appointed a special prosecutor recommended by the president to investigate the bribery practices that, according to the United States’ Department of Justice, took place between 2009 and 2014.
The high court removed the prosecution from the case after audio revealed that Pizano warned Martinez of the bribery practices a year before the latter became prosecutor general.
Martinez took no action until after December 2016 when the US government accused Odebrecht of bribing government officials throughout Latin America and Africa.
The chief prosecutor has since been accused of trying to cover up the scandal, among others by former road infrastructure chief Luis Luis Fernando Andrade who has left the country after being jailed.
Merchan was called to defend Andrade’s innocence in court and, according to Caracol Radio, had expressed fear for his life.
The former transparency secretary learned about the alleged bribery from Andrade when working for Santos between 2010 and 2014.
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