Odebrecht Accounts Blocked in Venezuela in Corruption Probe*
By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas
Bank accounts in Venezuela belonging to the construction giant Odebrecht were officially frozen on Wednesday pending ongoing investigations by the country’s Public Prosecution into corruption allegations.
The cautionary measure was taken in response to an injunction filed by public attorneys Pedro Lupera and Luis Sánchez, and is designed to ensure that Odebrecht cannot move its financial capital out of Venezuela while investigations take place.
In a statement on its webpage Wednesday, Venezuela’s Public Prosecution also confirmed that a legal prohibition had been placed on the transfer or sale of all Odebrecht property, and an arrest warrant requested for an as-of-yet unnamed person thought to be linked to “detected irregularities”. Interpol was also informed of the warrant, confirmed the press release.
The injunctions are the second in a series of actions taken against the building conglomerate by the public institution in less than a week, after the body supervised a raid on the company’s headquarters near the capital on Tuesday.
Odebrecht is currently at the centre of a corruption storm, and is accused of funnelling hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to public officials across Latin America in exchange for lucrative government construction contracts.
In December 2016, the company was found guilty in a U.S. court of violating anti-bribery laws and forced to pay a record-breaking USD$3.5 billion.
According to its plea deal, representatives acting on behalf of the company paid approximately US$98 million in bribes to Venezuelan government officials and intermediaries since 2006 – the largest amount for any country outside Brazil.
Over the past fifteen years, Odebrecht has been granted several public works contracts by the Venezuelan national government, as well as by the state governor office of Miranda, currently held by opposition politician Henrique Carriles Radonski.
Earlier in January, Capriles was summoned to appear before the Comptroller General’s office for questioning in relation to the case, however no further action against the politician has been taken to date.
According to the Attorney General’s office, Tuesday’s search of Odebrecht’s HQ was carried out in order to determine which of the company’s many Venezuela contracts remained unfinished, as well as to identify the recipients of contract payments.
Venezuela is one of several Latin American countries currently carrying out investigations into the company’s international bribery racket.
On Friday, Venezuela Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz confirmed that her office would collaborate with investigators in ten other countries, including Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Portugal, in order to facilitate the inter-continental investigations.