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  • Odebrecht officials in Brazil have been detained for their involvement in one of the largest corruption schemes in the world.

    Odebrecht officials in Brazil have been detained for their involvement in one of the largest corruption schemes in the world. | Photo: Reuters

Published 22 December 2016

The company and its affiliates were responsible for bribes estimated to be US$788 million to several Latin American and African countries.

The corruption scandal involving the largest construction company in Brazil Odebrecht, turned into a worldwide bribery scheme as a court ruling Wednesday showed that the company paid millions in bribes to Panama, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, Guatemala, Peru and the Dominican Republic, among other countries.

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Politicians and investigators across Latin America demanded more information from the company after it admitted to a decade of immense bribe payments in the region.

The company agreed to pay at least US$3.5 billion Wednesday to Brazilian, U.S. and Swiss prosecutors, the largest penalty ever in a foreign bribery case. Odebrecht also admitted to paying officials to help secure lucrative construction contracts in 12 countries, potentially opening itself up to new prosecution.

The company and its affiliates were responsible for bribes estimated to be US$788 million to several Latin American and African countries.

The scandal has generated political upheaval and led to 80 convictions in Brazil, and more than 50 politicians there are currently under investigation, including president Michel Temer.

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According to Brazilian media, Temer received more than US$3 million from Odebrecht and a number of his ministers have resigned in the fallout of the scandal. Odebrecht's former CEO Marcelo Odebrecht is currently serving a 19-year sentence after being charged for corruption in 2015.

Almost half of these bribes — about US$ 349 million — were given inside Brazil, to members of Temer’s cabinet involved in the largest corruption scandal, in connection to the state-run oil company Petrobras known as the "Car Wash Operation."

Odebrecht also said it paid officials in Peru US$29 million between around 2005 and 2014, spanning three presidencies. Officials allege they also paid businessmen in Ecuador.

Ecuadorian officials have requested complete and uncensored information over the allegations that the company had paid US$ 33.5 million in bribes in only one mentioned case, between 2007 and 2008 in which an “intermediary” acted in the name of the government.

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The government of Ecuador had expelled the Brazilian company in 2007 for irregularities in the construction of a hydroelectric plant. After pressure from the government to respect investment agreements, the company agreed to pay a fine and rebuild the plant in 2010.

Ecuadorean Attorney General Galo Chiriboga has requested the names, projects, and money involved in these illegal payments, and said the country will cooperate with authorities during the investigations.

The international scheme also included international money laundering spanning the United States and Switzerland. Some of the companies working with Odebrecht were located in tax havens in Belize and the Virgin Islands, according to a U.S. court ruling, proving yet again that tax havens are inextricably linked with corruption.

Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa has been a leader in promoting the end of tax havens around the world and will present a referendum during the next election in February 2017, to ask citizens whether they want to prevent public servants or candidates from having accounts or companies in tax havens.

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