Monday, March 20, 2023

Colombian Court Fines Brazil’s Odebrecht $250M for Graft

It’s been a long time coming. The investigation into the company's multi-national bribery scandal began in 2014.

A Colombian court fined the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht US$250 million for a bribery scheme involving construction contracts. The court also banned it from receiving state contracts for 10 years.

A protester holds a sign that reads “we demand justice” during demonstrations in Panama last year after Odebrecht’s corruption scheme came to light. | Photo: Efe

Late Thursday, the Regional Administrative Court of Cundinamarca penalized four companies including Odebrecht, Cass Constructores, and Episol, which is a subsidiary of Corficolombiana and Grupo Aval, as well as three former Odebrecht Colombia executives.

Fourteen people involved in the corruption scandal have been jailed in the Andean country, including a former senator and a former transport minister.

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Odebrecht has been at the center of Latin America’s biggest graft scandal, acknowledging in 2016 that it bribed officials in a dozen countries. According to the Attorney General’s office, the company paid around US$30 million in bribes in Colombia.

The court’s decision can be appealed. Episol said in a statement that it will dispute the ruling and would explore all available options.

Last month, the Colombian government opposed Odebrecht’s offer to pay US$33 million in compensation to end investigations and avoid a ban.

Instead, the government requested that Odebrecht be banned from state contracts for 20 years. The court only granted it a 10-year ban.

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Late last week, Odebrecht’s office in Peru agreed to pay the country’s authorities a multimillion-dollar fine in order to continue operating in the country. In exchange, the Brazilian construction company will provide evidence about officials it bribed, including two former Peruvian presidents.

Odebrecht is still obligated to collaborate in any investigations carried out by Peruvian prosecutors regarding the far-reaching Lava Jato (Car Wash) corruption scheme in the country.

The entire investigation, first revealed in 2014 has uncovered that over the past 20 years, the Brazilian company paid upwards of US$9.3 billion to Latin American authorities and elected officials in exchange for public works contracts.


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