How Well Is the Odebrecht Case Being Handled?

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How Well Is the Odebrecht Case Being Handled?
How Well Is the Odebrecht Case Being Handled?
From Latin America Advisor Newsletter
Published by The Inter-American Dialogue
May 14, 2019


Gene M. Smith, President and Co-Owner of Smith Brandon International, Inc. was one of several contributors to a Q&A in the May 14, 2019 issue of the Latin America Adviser Newsletter published by The Inter-American Dialogue. Each of the contributors was asked to answer the following question:

"Miguel Atala Herrera, a former vice president of Peruvian state oil company Petroperú, has confessed to acting as a frontman for late President Alan García in a bribery scheme in connection with Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht, prosecutors said April 30. Days earlier, Mexico announced it had banned the company from receiving any federal contracts for three years. Odebrecht has admitted to paying officials in a dozen countries in Latin America nearly $800 million in bribes in exchange for government contracts. How well are the different nations in the region, including Peru and Mexico but also Brazil and  Colombia, among others, handling probes into the massive corruption scandal? How much longer will the investigations last, and is there still a lot more to uncover? Which countries are employing the best policy measures to avoid repetition in the future, and should governments and businesses be doing more?"

Gene's answer is reproduced below:

“Odebrecht will go down in history as a model of corrupt practices, even given its cooperation in the process of tracking the estimated $788 million in bribes paid over roughly 15 years (2001-2016) to politicians across Brazil and at least 12 other countries. Odebrecht’s ‘bribery department,’ the Division of Structured Operations, managed and expedited the payment of bribes through designated banks and other intermediaries, including the relatively low-ranking ‘doleiros’ who assist in currency exchange at the person-to-person level in Brazil. Odebrecht entered into a settlement agreement with the authorities in several countries (including the United States and Brazil) that resulted in it being fined roughly $2.6 billion. For comparison purposes, it might be useful to review the parallel operations of Siemens (Germany), which had developed its own bribery department, the Major Projects Division of Siemens Business Services (SBS). Siemens entered a guilty plea and paid a $1.6 billion fine, among other penalties, in 2008 due to its bribery operations and other corrupt practices. Last year, a former SBS technical manager pleaded guilty in the United States to charges of participating in a $100 million bribery scheme in Argentina. Ten years after Siemens’ 2008 plea, the prosecutions continued. The Siemens case may be a benchmark for how long it might take to review Odebrecht’s operations, contracts and relationships with government officials. It might also be useful to factor in the level of cooperation among international law enforcement authorities that became the hallmark of the Odebrecht case. There are no real winners in the Odebrecht investigations. The sooner they’re concluded and the sooner that justice is rendered, the better.”

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