Odebrecht bribery scandal spreads in Latin America

American Airlines Arena in Miami is one of many major developments Odebrecht has built.
American Airlines Arena in Miami is one of many major developments Odebrecht has built.

Bribery charges against Odebrecht, the largest construction company in Latin America, are reverberating throughout the region, where Odebrecht had multiple contracts to build major infrastructure projects. Brazil-based Odebrecht faces accusations of paying bribes not only in its home country but also across much of Latin America.

Peruvian authorities, for example, recently issued an international warrant for the arrest of Alejando Toledo, who was president of Peru from 2001 to 2006. Toledo allegedly got $20 million in kickbacks for ensuring Odebrecht would win its bid to construct sections of a highway that now connects Brazil with Peruvian ports along the Pacific coast. Toledo has denied the charges.

The effort to apprehend Toledo may signal a new stage of the Odebrecht scandal as executives under indictment disclose details of the company’s complex “Division of Structured Operations,” which allegedly had oversight for $788 million of illegal payments.

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Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos this month denied allegations that his electoral campaign received $1 million of potentially illicit contributions from Odebrecht.

Gustavo Arribas, a close ally of Mauricio Macri, the president of Argentina, is also the subject of an Oldebrecht-related investigation and has denied wrongdoing.

Andrés Hernández, who runs the Colombia chapter of anti-graft group Transparency International, told the Washington Post the Oldebrecht scandal is a positive sign that “there is less and less tolerance for corruption.” [Washington Post] – Mike Seemuth