LIMA/QUITO Dec 22 Politicians and investigators
across Latin America demanded more information from Brazil-based
construction giant Odebrecht on Thursday after it admitted to a
decade of immense bribe payments in the region.
In agreeing on Wednesday to pay at least $3.5 billion to
Brazilian, U.S. and Swiss prosecutors, the largest penalty ever
in a foreign bribery case, Odebrecht admitted to paying
officials to help secure lucrative construction contracts in 12
countries, potentially opening itself up to new prosecution.
Nearly 80 Odebrecht executives and employees have also
agreed to turn state's witness as part of a leniency deal, and
their testimony is expected to provide even more evidence about
corruption in several nations.
Peru's president and a Venezuelan opposition leader said
Odebrecht should explain the payments in their countries, while
Ecuador opened an investigation and Colombia's government asked
the attorney general's office to move forward with one.
"Prosecutors will have to bring people from Odebrecht here
so that they explain who they paid this money to," Peruvian
President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski told reporters, referring to the
$29 million Odebrecht said it paid officials in the Andean
nation between about 2005 and 2014, spanning three presidencies.
Guilty pleas on Wednesday from Odebrecht and Braskem SA
, the petrochemical company it jointly owns with
Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras, were the first in the
United States following a nearly three-year investigation in
Odebrecht and Braskem were charged with conspiring to
violate the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which is
aimed at deterring companies from bribing officials overseas.
Odebrecht said it paid $439 million outside of Brazil, with
the largest bribe admissions abroad in Venezuela, the Dominican
Republic and Panama. Brazilian prosecutors have singled out
Panama for not cooperating with their investigation.
Panama's presidency said on Thursday it supported an
investigation by local prosecutors that would "punish the
companies and persons involved in these acts." Panama's national
prosecutors' office said it was requesting information on the
investigation from the United States.
The discovery of kickbacks to Brazilian politicians off
contracts between state-run companies, mainly Petrobras
, and engineering conglomerates like Odebrecht, has
generated political upheaval and led to 80 convictions in
Brazil. More than 50 politicians there are under investigation.
ROADS, TUNNELS, SUBWAYS
Family-run Odebrecht blossomed during an economic boom in
Brazil under former Presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and
Dilma Rousseff and its executives regularly rubbed shoulders
with elites across Latin America.
It became the region's largest engineering conglomerate,
building parts of a road across the Amazon jungle, tunnels and
subways in major cities.
Brazilian prosecutors say they are certain Odebrecht's way
of doing business in Brazil, where the company is accused of
paying out $2 billion in bribes in the past 15 years, was the
way it operated around the globe.
Argentina and Peru had already opened investigations into
Odebrecht construction contracts for suspected kickbacks to
Prosecutors in Peru recently returned from an investigative
trip to Switzerland, which has turned over information on about
1,000 bank accounts to Brazilian authorities on suspicion they
are linked to the country's wide-ranging corruption scandal.
Brazilian police say Odebrecht may have paid bribes to
former Peruvian President Ollanta Humala as well as Argentine
officials, including a former transportation
Humala denies wrongdoing. Kuczynski, who was not named in
the Brazilian investigation but was prime minister or finance
minister when Odebrecht agreed to bribe a high-ranking official
in 2005, said on Thursday he was not involved in any corrupt
Ecuador's attorney general, Galo Chiriboga, said on Thursday
he had requested information from Brazil and the U.S. Justice
"We will find out who Odebrecht bribed," he told state-run
The head of Guatemala's special anti-corruption prosecutor's
office told Reuters he had already been investigating Odebrecht
bribes to a government official, and President Jimmy Morales
said the government would revise all Odebrecht contracts.
Experts on corporate bribery said the Odebrecht admissions
in a dozen countries - which also include Angola and Mexico -
could subject Odebrecht to new investigations.
"It is possible that those countries could pursue their own
actions, said Peter Spivack, a Washington-based corporate lawyer
and expert on the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
He said many of the countries named do not have corporate
criminal liability laws, or like Argentina, have newly
introduced laws, meaning penalties would be a lesser civil
sanction or public procurement bars.
'PATTERN OF CORRUPTION'
The Argentine prosecutor in charge of the Odebrecht
investigation, Sergio Rodriguez, said the plea deal on Wednesday
would have a direct impact on their case, which is looking at
four Odebrecht projects, and he was trying to reach Brazilian
prosecutors to find out more.
"We have a preliminary case open," Rodriguez told Reuters.
"We will need to incorporate the information from the agreement
sooner or later."
Sources close to Odebrecht and Brazil's federal prosecutors
say it was mostly the work of the Brazilian investigators that
led to the Odebrecht's record-setting corruption settlement.
But if the settlement, which was negotiated in Brasilia, had
been announced in Brazil, its legal system would have required
that details remain sealed and not disclosed to the public, two
sources close to the negotiation told Reuters on Thursday.
The hope among Brazilian officials is that by having the
plea agreements with Odebrecht and Braskem made public,
authorities in the other countries will now come under public
pressure to follow up and investigate.
"The corruption we've uncovered in Brazil was systematic and
complex, and Odebrecht's central role in it is now obvious,"
Brazilian federal prosecutor Carlos Lima said earlier this year.
"We've found that wherever Odebrecht has worked, there has
been this pattern of corruption, and we're carefully
collaborating with several other countries on this."
(Additional reporting by Brad Brooks in Brazil, Nicolas
Misculin in Argentina, Julia Symmes Cobb in Colombia, Mica
Rosenberg in New York, Elida Moreno in Panama, Sofia Menchu in
Guatemala, Joanna Bernstein in Mexico, Andrew Cawthorne in
Caracas, Jorge Pineda in Dominican Republic; Writing by Caroline
Stauffer in Buenos Aires; Editing by Kieran Murray and Alistair