Behind the Fall of Marcelo Odebrecht, Brazil’s Construction ‘Prince’

Will Connors, Paul Kiernan – The Wall Street Journal, 12/18/2015

Brazilian building magnate Marcelo Odebrecht was a natural choice to deliver a keynote speech at the international business school he had attended in Lausanne, Switzerland. As chief executive of Odebrecht SA, he ran Latin America’s largest construction firm with a global portfolio that included the $200 million Miami Heat stadium, a $1 billion port project in Cuba and one of Africa’s largest hydroelectric dams in Angola.

Two days before the June event, Brazilian authorities upended Mr. Odebrecht’s travel plans, arresting him on suspicion of skimming money—now estimated as much as $1.8 billion—from Brazil’s state-run oil firm, Petróleo Brasileiro SA. Prosecutors have charged him with money laundering, corruption and organized crime.

Mr. Odebrecht, who remains in custody, has denied wrongdoing. The company, which also denied wrongdoing, said Mr. Odebrecht’s arrest was “unnecessary and illegal” since it was cooperating with investigators.

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Brazil convicts Odebrecht Group for slavery-like practices in Angola

Jeb Blount – Reuters, 9/01/2015

A Brazilian labor court convicted units of Brazil’s Odebrecht Group of holding workers in conditions akin to slavery at an ethanol refinery construction project in Angola, Brazilian prosecutors said in a statement on Tuesday.

Judge Carlos Alberto Frigieri of the 2nd Part of the Labor Court of Araraquara, Brazil, ordered Odebrecht to pay 50 million reais ($13 million) in damages.

The ruling comes as Odebrecht’s chief executive, Marcelo Odebrecht, is in jail as part of a giant corruption probe in Brazil. According to Brazilian courts and prosecutors, Odebrecht helped form part of a cartel of construction and engineering companies that defrauded Brazilian state-owned oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA of billion of dollars through a contract-rigging, bribery and political kickback scheme.

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Odebrecht: Brazilian construction giant in the crosshairs

Daniel Gallas – BBC, 8/3/2015

Many businesses saw their operations blossom too.
Among them, one stood out as a clear winner: Odebrecht group, which owns Latin America’s biggest construction company.
Under the leadership of chief executive Marcelo Odebrecht, whose grandfather founded the company, the group more than doubled in size and revenue in 10 years.

It now has 181,000 employees in 21 countries.
The company won contracts across the world – to expand the Caracas metro system, build a port in Cuba and carry out many infrastructure projects in Africa.

When Brazilian presidents travelled abroad, Odebrecht executives were regular fixtures in the usual business entourage.

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Brazilian prosecutors file charges against Odebrecht chief, others

Luciana Magalhaes and Will Connors – The Wall Street Journal, 7/24/2015

Brazilian federal prosecutors Friday filed charges against the chief executive of construction group Odebrecht SA and several other construction-industry executives, detailing what they said was an elaborate use of Swiss bank accounts to hide cash as part of an alleged corruption scheme involving state-run oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA.

The charges include money laundering, corruption, and organized crime. They represent a significant setback for Latin America’s biggest construction group and one of Brazil’s most important companies.

Chief Executive Marcelo Odebrecht, along with Otávio Azevedo, chief executive of Brazilian construction conglomerate Andrade Gutierrez, and other executives from both companies, were arrested last month as part of an investigation into a graft ring that allegedly siphoned billions from Petrobras.

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Swiss authorities open investigation into Brazil’s Odebrecht

Will Connors – The Wall Street Journal, 7/22/2015

Swiss authorities on Wednesday said they are investigating units of the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht SA in connection with a corruption scandal involving Brazil’s state-run oil firm Petróleo Brasileiro SA, broadening an international money-laundering investigation.

The Swiss attorney general’s office alleges, in a statement, that Odebrecht units paid bribes from accounts in Switzerland into separate Swiss accounts held by former Petrobras directors. Swiss authorities didn’t name specific Odebrecht operating units or the Swiss banks involved.

Swiss authorities said they have requested help from Brazilian authorities to question suspects and “secure relevant documentary evidence” in Brazil.

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Exclusive: Peru sending prosecutors to Brazil as corruption probe goes regional

Marco Aquino and Brad Haynes – Reuters, 7/20/2015

Peruvian prosecutors plan to visit Brazil this month to gather evidence of bribery on a transcontinental highway project, Peru’s attorney general said in an interview, adding to regional fallout from the biggest corruption scandal in Brazil’s history.

The mission laid out by Peruvian Attorney General Pablo Sánchez is the most public sign yet of international cooperation on a case that has jailed heads of major Brazilian engineering groups as police comb bank records for evidence of a cartel.

Regional interest in the probe exploded last month, when Brazilian police arrested the chief executive of Odebrecht SA [ODBES.UL], Latin America’s biggest construction company. His arrest has put billions of dollars worth of infrastructure projects in the region under fresh scrutiny.

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Brazil probe pits investigators against long-protected elite

Caroline Stauffer – Reuters, 6/26/2015

In a nation where the elite have enjoyed relative impunity, a new generation of police and prosecutors in Brazil are bent on using the country’s largest-ever corruption investigation to send the message that no one is above the law.

They have displayed in a local museum works of art seized in arrests in connection with alleged bribery at state-run oil firm Petrobras. They have also paraded lobbyists and chief executives in handcuffs before TV cameras.

And they gave the moniker Operation ‘Erga Omnes,’ Latin for ‘For everyone’ to a raid that jailed one of the country’s most powerful corporate scions, CEO Marcelo Odebrecht.

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Brazil probe sweeps up corporate magnates

Will Connors – The Wall Street Journal, 6/19/2015

Brazilian officials arrested the heads of two Latin American construction giants, alleging they helped to mastermind a cartel that stole billions of dollars from state-run oil company Petrobras with the help of corrupt politicians to whom they paid kickbacks.

Friday’s arrests are an exclamation point to a wide-ranging graft probe that has shaken Brazil’s business and political establishment for more than a year, now ensnaring the chiefs of Odebrecht SA and Andrade Gutierrez, who stand accused of money laundering and corruption.

Odebrecht is Latin America’s largest construction conglomerate, with business in the U.S., Europe and Africa, and whose head, Marcelo Odebrecht, is a household name in Brazil. Andrade Gutierrez has business in 40 countries. The privately owned companies are deeply involved in the development of stadiums and infrastructure for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

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Brazil arrests powerful Odebrecht CEO in Petrobras probe -media

Caroline Stauffer and Walter Brandimarte – Reuters, 6/19/2015

Brazilian police on Friday arrested Marcelo Odebrecht, the head of Latin America’s largest engineering and construction company Odebrecht SA, local media said, pulling the most high-profile executive into the corruption investigation at state-run oil firm Petrobras.

Federal officers had orders to arrest a total of 12 people in four states and bring them to the southern city of Curitiba where the investigation is based, according to a federal police statement that did not give the names of the detained.

Odebrecht, which has 200,000 workers and a presence in 21 countries, said in a statement police had raided its offices in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and made arrests, but did not confirm any names. The company said the arrests were “unnecessary” because it was collaborating with investigators.

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Ex-president’s relationship with Odebrecht scrutinized in Brazil

Blake Schmidt – Bloomberg, 5/2/2015

Brazil’s federal prosecutors have initiated a preliminary inquiry as to whether former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva used his influence to persuade the state development bank to help finance projects of one of Brazil’s biggest industrial conglomerates, according to media reports.

The weekly Epoca magazine was the first to report an inquiry into alleged influence-peddling involving the politician’s speaking engagements abroad. The magazine reported on Friday that Brazil’s development bank, BNDES, had financed Odebrecht SA construction projects in countries whose leaders Lula had met with.

Lula, Odebrecht and BNDES have each denied any wrongdoing.

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