December 14, 2017
Friday, June 16, 2017

Allegations from Odebrecht bribery scandal continues to make waves

Odebrecht’s offices in Buenos Aires are seen in this file photo.
Odebrecht’s offices in Buenos Aires are seen in this file photo.
Odebrecht’s offices in Buenos Aires are seen in this file photo.

Anti-Corruption Office asks to be made a plaintiff in five cases; reports emerge suggesting Gils Carbó has agreed to info sharing deal with Brazilian counterpart

The Anti-Corruption Office (AO) requested on Monday to be a plaintiff in four of the cases involving local public works projects with Odebrecht, including a gas project that took place between 2006-2008, the Sarmiento rail underpass infrastructure project contracted in 2006, the expansion of a water treatment plant in Tigre and a water purifying plant in Berazategui, Buenos Aires province, led by the AYSA state water company.

Federal Judge Daniel Rafecas immediately accepted the AO’s request in the case of the former, the gas projects in Northern provinces.

The Anti-Corruption Office, headed by Laura Alonso, a close ally of President Mauricio Macri, has also requested it become part of a case implicating the current head of the AFI, Gustavo Arribas, for allegedly receiving bribes.

In recent months, Arribas was accused of taking bribes worth up to US$850,000 in bribes by Leonardo Meirelles, a Brazilian doleiro (illegal financial operator), in written testimony and before the local courts. Arribas has denied the accusations and his lawyers have accused Meirelles of lying. President Macri, who rents out an apartment on Libertador Avenue to Arribas, has continued to stand by his intelligence chief.

The Sarmiento rail underpass is also under suspicion, a project that involves the Brazilian conglomerate and IECSA, a company that the president’s cousin, Ángelo Calcaterra, purchased from the Macri family in 2007.

According to the AO, IESCA may not be involved in the alleged wrongdoing or implicated in bribes mentioned by company’s executives in their internal communications related to the project, as Odebrecht was running the project.

However, sources from the AO have told the Herald they haven’t ruled out the possibility that Calcaterra’s company may have been so-called “middle-men” in order to charm Kirchnerite officials inside the Federal Planning Ministry, which was then-headed by Julio de Vido.

Officials from the Anti-Corruption Office also believe that Arribas may be beyond the probing of Argentine courts because his alleged participation in bribery would be related to Brazilian business. They are, however, planning to track the case. “Meirelles’ statements are important,” the source said.

Cancelled meeting

“On June 28, we are going to meet with the (US) Justice Department in Washington DC. Not only will judges and prosecutors participate but also a team of Anti-Corruption Office investigators,” said Alonso recently.

However, according to reports in Ámbito Financiero and Noticias Argentinas, the scheduled meeting was later cancelled after it was revealed that several judges who were supposed to attend had received emails from the US Justice Department stating that they were facing “difficulties.”

Unconfirmed reports this week suggested that the US authorities had decided to cancel the meeting after information they had provided Justice Minister Germán Garavano and other government officials was leaked to the press.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Alejandra Gils Carbó met with Brazil’s Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot yesterday on the sidelines of the XXI Specialised Meeting of Public Prosecutors of the Mercosur to discuss cooperation in the bribery investigation.

Local media have reported this week that the two sides were close to signing a formal agreement, in order to exchange information and share details of negotiations and litigation. At press time last night, Ámbito Financiero and C5N both reported that a deal had been signed, though that was unconfirmed.

According to some reports, the exchange of information will not involve Gils Carbó and Janot directly, but rather prosecutors who are carrying out investigations, in order to avoid allegations of interference from the government and the Attorney General’s Office.

Speculation grew this week in the local media that the Let’s Change (Cambiemos) administration would soon announce that Odebrecht will no longer form part of the Sarmiento underpass project. “They only have one (large public works project), and it’s about to go,” said a high-ranking government source to the La Nación daily on Wednesday.

So far, only 600 metres have been tunnelled of the 18-kilometre rail underpass project.

— Herald staff

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