Brazil Scion's Testimony Pledge And Donation Lists Fuel Crisis

  • Ex-CEO Marcelo Odebrecht was sentenced to 19 years in jail
  • Police said company had a department specialized in bribing

Investigations into Latin America’s biggest building conglomerate could nearly triple the number of politicians involved in Brazil’s largest corruption probe.

Lists of alleged payments from the Odebrecht SA conglomerate to more than 200 politicians were disclosed in court documents on Tuesday, before being placed under secrecy by Judge Sergio Moro, who has led the so-called Carwash case. The documents came on the same day Marcelo Odebrecht, one of the nation’s most politically-connected businessmen, announced to the press the intention to collaborate with authorities after nine months in jail.

The notes, which don’t specify if the alleged campaign donations were legal or illegal, showed a table of payments to politicians from 18 parties, including governors, senators and leaders from the government and the opposition. The documents were spread among hundreds of files available on a court website. The company’s press office declined to comment on the documents. Prosecutors said conversations haven’t started yet and that advertising a collaboration agreement could prevent it from happening.

"It is premature to conclude the nature of the payments," Moro said in his decision to restore secrecy. Official political donations by Odebrecht in the past years are widely known, Moro said. The judge also asked prosecutors to weigh if the case should be sent to the Supreme Court, which is responsible for cases involving politicians.

More than 60 politicians are already under investigation, including the head of the Senate and the Lower House, as well as former presidents. The Tuesday list adds names of governors, mayors, leaders from the opposition and congressmen and threatens to deepen a political crisis that already has President Dilma Rousseff fighting for her political survival.

Odebrecht said in a statement on its website that it decided on "definitive cooperation" with authorities, after negotiations started in December for a leniency agreement that would ease restrictions on its business. The deal includes participation from Marcelo Odebrecht, the billionaire family scion and ex-CEO who is serving a 19-year prison sentence for crimes including corruption and money laundering, the company confirmed in an e-mail.

"That leniency accord will be bombastic," said Joao Costa, chief economist at Pezco Microanalysis in Sao Paulo.

Odebrecht said in the statement on its website that it has established compliance targets to prevent and fight corruption, and pointed out that Brazil’s campaign finance system is a problem that goes beyond just one company.

"We do not have overriding responsibility for the facts investigated in Operation Lava Jato – which, in fact, has revealed the existence of an illegal and illegitimate system to fund the country’s party electoral system," the company said in a statement.

In an interview last year, weeks before his arrest, Odebrecht explained that he had to spread a lot of campaign donations around to ensure Brazilian politicians listen with a receptive ear. The company is a top donor to Brazilian political campaigns, according to electoral court data.

The company does everything from heavy construction to making petrochemicals. Part of doing business in Brazil is contributing to a network of politicians, from local and state officials to members of congress, he said in an April 27 interview at Odebrecht’s Sao Paulo offices.

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