Petrobras scandal may involve Peruvians

26 July 2015

As the magnitude of the scandal involving Petrobras and the bribes paid by leading Brazilian construction firms becomes clearer, increased attention is being paid to possible irregularities in the activities of the latter in other countries, among them Peru.

Most of the four largest Brazilian construction companies – Odebrecht, Camargo Correa, Quieroz Galvão and Andrade Gutierrez -- have been involved in construction projects in Peru over the last 20 years, notably the construction of the Inter-Oceanic Highway linking Peruvian ports on the Pacific with the Brazilian road network.

The details of corruption first emerged from the testimony given by Alberto Youssef, the senior executive at Petrobras who was at the centre of activities in the over-invoicing of construction contracts who has given evidence in return for promises of a lighter sentence. Yossef apparently not only personally distributed cash to Brazilian political figures (particularly those in the ruling Workers’ Party) but also to a number of recipients in Latin America, including Peru.

Details of recipients will doubtless come to light as the investigation proceeds in Brazil, and they may prove uncomfortable for some members of the Peruvian political class. Meanwhile, Peru’s new chief public prosecutor (Fiscal de la Nación) is sending a delegation to Brazil to work with officials there in establishing whether illicit payments were made in Peru, by whom and to whom.

Earlier this month Marcelo Odebrecht, as well as other senior executives of Brazil’s premier construction company, were arrested pending further enquiries into allegedly corrupt activities which they deny. If they agree to give evidence about what they know in return for more lenient sentences, they may well divulge more information on the ‘Peruvian connection’. Watch this space.

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