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  HOME | Brazil (Click here for more)

Brazil’s Odebrecht Looking to Reach Settlements with Latin American Prosecutors

RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian builder Odebrecht said on Friday it was looking to reach settlements with prosecutors in several Latin American countries where the company is currently under investigation for allegedly bribing government officials to win business.

In December, Odebrecht and its petrochemical unit Braskem pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a combined total penalty of at least $3.5 billion to resolve charges with authorities in the United States, Brazil and Switzerland.

Those charges arose out of schemes that operated for more than a decade and involved the payment of some $788 million in bribes to government officials, their representatives and political parties in a number of countries.

The Salvador, Brazil-based engineering giant is now seeking to reach deals with investigators in several of those nations.

“Odebrecht reaffirms its commitment to cooperate with investigators,” the company said in a statement Friday, adding that it was in advanced talks with some Latin American countries to clarify its illegal actions.

The statement was issued after Brazilian daily Folha de S.Paulo reported that the company was willing to reach plea deals with prosecutors in eight Latin American countries – Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela – provided restrictions blocking it from doing business are lifted.

Odebrecht attorneys made the proposal during a meeting a week ago in Brasilia in which prosecutors from 10 countries investigating Odebrecht agreed to form a task force to share evidence, the Brazilian newspaper said.

But Odebrecht spokespersons, speaking on condition of anonymity, told EFE the company was merely seeking to cooperate in the investigations and was not looking for anything in return.

Among those under investigation in connection with alleged bribes paid by Odebrecht is former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo, who is currently a fugitive from justice.

Brazilian prosecutors say Odebrecht led a cartel of construction companies that systematically bribed executives at Brazilian state-controlled oil company Petrobras in exchange for inflated contracts.

Extra money from that decade-long scheme was funneled to politicians who provided money for the graft.

The investigation, known as “Lava Jato” (Car Wash), has led to prominent politicians and business executives, including former Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht, being sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is facing five trials in his homeland on corruption charges, three of them related to the Petrobras scheme. He vehemently denies the accusations.

Dozens of Odebrecht executives have agreed to plea deals in Brazil that – once unsealed – are expected to further rock that nation’s political class.

In 2015, Petrobras wrote off some 50 billion reais ($16 billion at the current exchange rate) due to losses from graft and overvalued assets.

 

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