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BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - A witness in Brazil's "Operation Car Wash" corruption scandal involving construction companies told Argentine prosecutors on Thursday that President Mauricio Macri's spy chief received bribes, a judicial source present at the hearing told Reuters.
Former Odebrecht SA [ODBES.UL] official Leonardo Meirelles' testimony comes as the company, which has admitted to paying bribes in 12 mostly Latin American countries, is striving to improve its image in various countries in which it operates by offering to cooperate with judicial investigations.
According to the source, Meirelles told Argentine prosecutors via videoconference that either Odebrecht or OAS Empreendimentos SA [OAS.UL], another Brazilian builder, had made several payments to Gustavo Arribas, head of Argentina's Federal Intelligence Agency, and the Brazilian justice system has the transaction receipts.
"Meirelles confirmed the transfers, which he said numbered 10 or more, for a total amount of $850,000," the source said. "The transfers amount to the payment of bribes."
Arribas has previously denied taking bribes or having any link to Odebrecht. The payments were alleged to have occurred in 2013 when he was in the private sector and a close friend of Macri, who was then mayor of Buenos Aires. Macri named him to his current position in 2015.
Earlier corruption charges against Arribas were dismissed, but the source said prosecutors will ask to re-open the case due to the new evidence.
Reporting by Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Cynthia Osterman