Brazil Construction Giant Admits to Massive Bribe Scheme

The penalties were levied on Brazilian Construction firm Odebrecht, its subsidiary Construtora Norberto Odebrecht (CNO) and affiliated petrochemical company Braskem as part of a combined prosecution between the Swiss Attorney General and its counterparts in the United States and Brazil.

Transparency International today calls on the national prosecutors of 9 Latin American countries and two African countries to ask US, Brazilian and Swiss prosecutors to share the evidence in their $2.6 billion settlement with Brazilian construction company Odebrecht.

In documents made public on Wednesday (the 21st), the US Department of Justice (DOJ) revealed that the Odebrecht Group paid US$ 599 million (R$ 1,9 billion at today's exchange rate) in bribes to Brazilian politicians and public servants and more than US$ 439 million (R$ 1,4 billion) in 11 other countries.

Mexico's government and state oil firm Petróleos Mexicanos, known as Pemex, said they would review the allegations, but Francisco Burquez, an opposition senator calling for answers, argued that local officials were unlikely to do much because of the prevalence of corruption.

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It also found that another company, Braskem, which is majority owned by Odebrect and which counts Petrobras as one of its shareholders, had "paid bribes via the same channels". Two Brazilian companies have agreed to more than $3.5 billion in fines for violating USA bribery laws in their dealings with Petrobras.

Their guilty pleas were the first in the United States following a almost three-year investigation in Brazil dubbed "Operation Car Wash" into corruption at Petrobras, which has led to dozens of arrests and political upheaval in Brazil.

"Odebrecht and Braskem used hidden but fully functioning Odebrecht business unit - a "Department of Bribery" so to speak - that systematically paid hundreds of millions of dollars to corrupt government officials in countries on three continents", said US Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sung-Hee Suh. Odebrecht and CNO were fined CHF4.5 million and ordered to pay additional forfeited funds, compensation and procedural costs - a total bill of CHF117 million. The judge scheduled sentencing for April, when the deal would become finalized. Odebrecht and Braskem also agreed to adopt enhanced compliance procedures and to retain independent compliance monitors for three years.

Prosecutors say that the corrupt companies benefited from billion of dollars worth of bribes and kickbacks with the heads of Petrobras for a number of construction projects.

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