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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Rolls-Royce entangled in Brazil’s corruption scandal

CNN Money, 8/31/2015

Rolls-Royce, the crown jewel of British engineering, has been dragged into Brazil’s colossal corruption scandal.The company said it was cooperating with the Brazilian authorities investigating bribery at state-owned oil giant Petrobras.

“We have repeatedly made it clear that Rolls Royce will not tolerate business misconduct of any kind,” a Rolls-Royce spokesperson said. He declined further comment.

Rolls Royce (RYCEY), which supplies turbines for Petrobras’ oil drilling platforms, has been accused of giving kickbacks to officials in order to secure contracts in Brazil.

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Brazil mayor who ran town via WhatsApp wanted for corruption

BBC News, 08/31/2015 

A mayor in Brazil is on the run after she was accused of siphoning off funds from the school system and running the town remotely through WhatsApp.

Lidiane Leite, 25, lived a life of luxury in the capital of Maranhao state, prosecutors said.They say her only contact with her town, Bom Jardim, was through daily WhatsApp messages to her cabinet.

An arrest warrant has been issued against her and her boyfriend, who served as her main adviser.

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Brazil Farmers Group Occupies Finance Ministry

Paulo Trevisani, Wall Street Journal, 8/4/2015

Protesters from a far-left organization that calls for the distribution of farmland to the poor occupied Brazil’s Finance Ministry, forcing the suspension of official business in the building.

Brazil’s Finance Minister Joaquim Levy. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Brazil’s Finance Minister Joaquim Levy. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

The Landless Farmers Movement, also known as MST, was protesting cuts in funding for land distribution to 1.8 billion Brazilian reais ($520 million) from 3.5 billion reais, a spokeswoman for the group said at the site.

A spokesman for the Agrarian Development Ministry, the body in charge of Brazil’s land-distribution program, said that figure referred to the full size of cuts across the ministry, although a good part of it was related to land distribution.

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Brazilian prosecutors take step closer to political elite

Joe Leahy and Aline Rocha – Financial Times, 7/27/2015

Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s firebrand former president, told a weekend meeting of trade unionists that the country’s political left was suffering from “persecution”.

Unnamed “elitists” were jealous of the achievements of his left-leaning ruling Workers’ party (PT) in raising the living standards of the poor, he said.

“What we see on the television looks like the Nazis criminalising the Jewish people,” he said. Mr Lula da Silva was right about one thing — the PT-led ruling coalition is under pressure as never before. But rather than Nazis, the “persecutors” are Brazil’s increasingly proactive and independent federal police, public prosecutors and judges.

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Brazil jolted by probe of ex-leader ‘Lula’

Rogerio Jelmayer and Luciana Magalhaes – The Wall Street Journal – 7/16/2015

Brazil’s ruling party was newly buffeted on Thursday as federal prosecutors opened an investigation into former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for alleged influence peddling on behalf of a Brazilian construction giant.

Officials are trying to determine whether the popular Mr. da Silva used his clout upon leaving office to convince international leaders to award contracts to Odebrecht SA, and to push Brazil’s development bank, known as BNDES, to finance those deals with subsidized loans.

Under Brazilian law, both acts are criminal offenses, with influence peddling punishable by up to five years in prison. The alleged offenses occurred between 2011 and 2014, after Mr. da Silva left office, and involved a series of big infrastructure deals that Odebrecht won with nations including Ghana, Angola, the Dominican Republic and Cuba.

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Brazil oil giant faces $98bn shareholder lawsuit in US over corruption scheme

Rupert Neate – The Guardian, 7/10/2015

A US judge has told Petrobras bosses to prepare for a $98bn lawsuit over allegations that executives at the Brazilian oil company and senior politicians were involved in a huge money-laundering and corruption scheme dubbed “Operation Carwash”.

US district judge Jed Rakoff on Friday threw out Petrobras’s efforts to get the case dismissed and told the company and investors who are bringing the class action lawsuit to prepare for trial as soon as February 2016. Senior executives and Brazilian politicians are likely to be called to appear before the New York court, if the case gets the final go-ahead.

Shareholders, led by the UK Universities Superannuation Scheme, which manages the pension funds of British academics, claim they lost billions as a result of the scandal which has been dubbed “Operation Carwash” because huge sums of money were allegedly laundered through a money exchange in a nondescript gas station in Brasília, the Brazilian capital.

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