Odebrecht: The scandal shaking Latin America

Sunday, April 21, 2019

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MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AFP) — The corruption scandal involving Latin America's biggest construction company, Odebrecht took a dramatic turn last Wednesday with the suicide of former Peruvian President Alan Garcia, who was embroiled in the affair.

According to the US Justice Department, Odebrecht paid US$788 million in bribes across 12 countries, and presidents as well as former heads of state and ministers were involved.

Here is a recap of the main countries hit by the ongoing scandal.

Brazil

Brazil is at the origin of the sprawling corruption probe known as “Car Wash” that has claimed numerous corporate and political scalps.

Building everything from the Miami Heat basketball arena to a hydroelectric dam in Angola, Odebrecht SA has long been one of Brazil's economic giants.

At the peak of his career at the company founded by his grandfather, Marcelo Odebrecht — originally sentenced to 19 years in prison but now serving a reduced sentence in his luxurious Sao Paulo mansion — was one of the most influential people in the country.

In 2018, Odebrecht agreed to pay a US$700-million settlement to the Brazilian Government as part of a US$2.6-billion package the company has committed to shell out to the United States, Switzerland, and Brazil.

Also in 2018, former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sentenced to 12 years and one month in prison for accepting bribes from the company.

Other politicians in Brazil embroiled in the scandal include another former pesident, Michel Temer.

Peru

Peru is the other country hit hardest by the scandal. Odebrecht has admitted paying at least US$29 million in bribes to Peruvian officials since 2004.

Alan Garcia was one of four Peruvian ex-presidents embroiled in various corruption scandals, along with Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (2016-18), Ollanta Humala (2011-16), and Alejandro Toledo (2001-06).

Kuczynski in 2018 became the first president to resign over his connections to Odebrecht. He admitted receiving around US$5 million from the company.

On April 17, 2019 Garcia died in a hospital after shooting himself in the head at his home as police were about to arrest him as part of the corruption case.

The same day, Kuczynski was taken to a hospital suffering from high blood pressure. He had been arrested a week before and was being held under preliminary detention until April 20.

Ecuador

Ecuador's Vice-President Jorge Glas was sentenced to six years in prison in 2017 for receiving US$13.5 million in kickbacks. He was formally stripped of his office by Congress in 2018.

According to the prosecution, 22 people are in detention and 24 cases have been opened.

Venezuela and elsewhere

The scandal has also hit Venezuela, where the company has admitted to paying US$98 million in bribes — the biggest pay-off outside Brazil.

President Nicolas Maduro and members of the ruling party have been suspected of involvement in the affair, but the country's justice system has shut down any investigations.

In Panama, Odebrecht has admitted paying US$59 million in bribes. Two sons and three former ministers of the ex-Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli have been accused of collecting bribes.

In the Dominican Republic, the company has admitted paying US$92 million in bribes to gain contracts in the country. Seven people have been accused of corruption.


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