Saturday, October 31, 2020

New Odebrecht leaks reveal US$15.7m of bribes tied to Argentina

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More than 13,000 new documents tied to the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht have revealed the scope of the supposed bribes and other illegal transactions the company made in Argentina and the rest of the region.

The documents include dates, amounts, nicknames of the recipients of illegal payments, the specific job or project, and the financial structure the firm designed to cover up the origin and destination of the funds.

Such clues into Latin America’s main corruption case were exposed in documentation accessed by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). In Argentina, journalists from La Nación and Perfil participate in the ICIJ.

The documents are part of an investigation the “Bribery Division” case whose pool of evidence includes spreadsheets, bank statements, payment confirmations and e-mails in which some former Odebrecht executives appear to participate in a sophisticated network of dirty money.

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The archives are stored in an IT system known as Drousys, which guarantees their confidentiality. The latest documents were obtained by the Mil Hojas and La Posta publications in Ecuador, which released the documents to more than 50 ICIJ journalists in 10 countries.

BRIBERY DIVISION

Odebrecht’s illegal payments were handled by a special area of the business: the Structured Operations Division, which former executives with plea bargains have confessed to knowing about. The department was in 2016 labelled the “bribery division” by US authorities.

The new documents reveal partial information about the division’s activities but suggest that between 2002 and 2014, the company handled nearly US$15.7 million in bribes with connections to Argentina. More information will come to light about the scheme in the coming days in press reports prepared by ICIJ journalists.

In Argentina, current Odebrecht authorities said the company would “strengthen its unmoving commitment to collaborating (with the courts) and to achieve agreements to collaborate and repare damage in order to clarify the illegal activities of the past”.

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The company also emphasised that “since it accepted its responsibility before Brazilian, US and Swiss authorities, the firm has recognised its mistakes, changed its governance and implemented internal control mechanisms, under the watch of the United States and Brazilian authorities. Odebrecht reiterates its willingness to continue working with Argentina, protecting jobs and collaborating in the country’s growth”.

The documents also reveal the nicknames of the recipients of alleged bribes, some of whom appear for the first time as having links to offshore accounts. The names of ghost companies are also listed as having been set up to receive payments. These will be revealed in the coming days in Perfil and La Nación.

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