RIO DE JANEIRO – The former mayor of Rio de Janeiro, Eduardo Paes, was accused by executives with Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht of taking about 16 million reais ($5.2 million) in bribes in exchange for favoring the firm in contracts for projects associated with the 2016 Olympic Games.
Paes is one of almost 100 politicians against whom investigations have been mounted by order of Brazil’s Supreme Court based on accusations made by 77 Odebrecht executives who agreed to cooperate with the judiciary in exchange for reductions in their future sentences.
The Rio mayor, who governed the city from 2009-2016, said Wednesday in a statement that the accusations that he received “unwarranted advantages” in exchange for the Olympics construction projects were “absurd and untrue.”
Paes “vehemently denies having accepted bribes to facilitate or benefit the interests of ... Odebrecht, and he reiterates that he never accepted any compensation of any kind for the ... projects carried out during his administration,” read the communique released by his press office.
In the statement, the mayor also said that he never maintained a foreign bank account and that all donations he received for his election campaigns were declared to the Electoral Court.
Despite the fact that Paes does not enjoy immunity from prosecution, the Supreme Court took over the investigation against him because the accusation also includes federal lawmaker Pedro Paulo, one of his main political allies, who was the candidate to succeed him as mayor in last year’s elections.
Both men will be investigated for passive corruption, active corruption, money laundering and tax evasion based on the accusations made by three of the Odebrecht execs.
One of the accusers, Benedicto Barbosa, who headed the construction firm’s team that coordinated the payment of bribes, said that in 2012 Paes received 16 million reais, of which 5 million reais went into accounts abroad, in exchange for favoring Odebrecht in the building contracts for last August’s Games.
The Odebrecht execs also accused both Paes and Paulo of taking illegal donations to finance their election campaigns in 2010, 2012 and 2016.
The Rio Mayor’s Office was responsible for a large portion of the construction projects the city undertook with an eye toward hosting the Games, some of which – including the city’s new metro line – are under investigation for assorted irregularities.
According to figures released by Paes himself, the Games cost a total of 39 billion reais, of which 43 percent was financed by the private sector.