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US info on Odebrecht bribes seen by local judges, prosecutors

 

Seeking progress in the otherwise slow-moving cases looking into the bribes paid by Odebrecht in Argentina, a group of judges and prosecutors has received information from the US Department of Justice which may help move the investigations along.

Federal Judges Sebastián Ramos, Marcelo Martínez de Giorgi, Daniel Rafecas, Sebstián Casanello and prosecutors Sergio Rodríguez and Franco Picardi met with members of the Department of Justice for almost five hours this week. During the meeting precise information about who received the bribes — and the amounts paid — were disclosed to the officials, but they cannot be used in a court. As such, formal petitions for the information must now be filed.

In a settlement with US, Brazilian and Swiss authorities Odebrecht has recognised paying up to US$35 million in bribes but efforts to obtain more information about those payments have been frustrated by a lack of a legal framework allowing for a plea bargain to be struck with the Brazilian company. Efforts to obtain information from Brazilian judicial authorities have also been hindered by conditions preventing prosecution in Argentina. Judicial cooperation between the US and Argentina now seems to be the avenue of choice over the cases looking into allegations that bribes were paid in public works projects like the tunneling of the Sarmiento train line, gas pipelines, water treatment plants and the sale of Transener to Electroingenería. Details of the conversations in the US remained confidential.

The agreement between Odebrecht and US, Brazilian and Swiss authorities includes a recognition that between 2007 and 2014 it paid upwards of US$35 million in bribes in Argentina with the knowledge that the money would in part end up in the hands of public officials. The payments were linked to at least three public works projects worth US$278 million.

Last week Odebrecht was banned from bidding on public works projects for 12 months in Argentina. The move could cut Odebrecht out of a series of government-financed infrastructure jobs. Odebrecht said in a statement that it had adopted “the necessary measures to ensure its business actions are ethical, have integrity and are transparent.”

— Herald staff

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