Taken from their own investigations and from information about investigations conducted by Brazil’s Public Prosecutor’s Office, the press has released information that says Odebrecht participated illegally in three major projects in Argentina that, when combined, amounted to US$ 2.2 billion. Such a figure corresponds to i) the tunnelling project for the Sarmiento Railway, in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area; ii) the building of the Paraná de las Palmas water purification plant (in Tigre, located in the Greater Buenos Aires area); and iii) the expansion of gas pipelines networks in different regions of the country (such as in the province of Córdoba). The company admitted that, in order to be favoured in these contracts, it had paid bribes that were also very large.
According to documents, Odebrecht executives stated in their plea bargain deal testimonies that the bribes in Argentina amounted to “at least” US$ 35 million, which would imply a return of little more than 1.5 per cent on the company’s total turnover from the country’s public works contracts. According to the testimonies, bribes were paid to employees close to the former Minister of Federal Planning, Services and Public Investment Júlio De Vido, who occupied the position for the entirety of the Kirchnerist period, and to the director of the state-owned Água e Saneamento Argentino (Aysa) company, Oscar Raúl Biancuzzo.
In his testimony, Luiz Antonio Mameri, former Odebrecht director for Latin America and Angola, details the payments. “There were two illicit adjustments. One with Mr. Raúl Biancuzzo, in which we identified, up until now, payments in the amount of US$ 7.6 million, and another with Mr. Jorge Rodríguez (a businessman close to Minister of Planning Júlio De Vido, known as “Corcho” Rodríguez), worth US$ 6.45 million”, states Mameri.
According to the same testimony, at least one Argentine company, IECSA, also participated in the partition of the bribe payment. “If Odebrecht wanted to participate in a project, it had to partner up with a local company. Furthermore, it needed to make illicit payments to public agents that worked in the clearance processes for these services that the joint venture would, in the future, perform. We had no direct dealings, at least at the time that this was negotiated between the joint venture partners and possible public agents”, states the former Odebrecht executive.
In another excerpt from the testimony, concerning the bribe paid for the Sarmiento Railway tunnelling contract, Mameri explained the participation of local companies further. “The relationship with these public agents was handled exclusively through these local companies, not foreign ones. Normally we would set up a joint venture, which is what happened in this Sarmiento Railway tunnelling project. Mr. Javier Sánchez Caballero informed us that he had made adjustments with public agents on behalf of the joint venture, so that it would win the public bidding. The joint venture would make the (bribery) payments as soon as it started getting paid for the services performed. Concurrently with the works’ progress, the billing documents would be paid and the corresponding share would be passed on to him, Mr. Javier Sánchez Caballero”, explains Mameri, referring to the former CEO of civil construction company IECSA and right-hand man to Ángelo Calcaterra, owner of the company and president Mauricio Macri’s cousin.
About the corruption scheme behind the Paraná de las Palmas water purification plant, Mameri recounted that other local companies participated, as they were introduced to Odebrecht by Argentine citizen Carlos Enrique Wagner, owner of a local company called Esuco S.A. and chairman of the Argentine Civil Construction Board, which had close ties to the Kirchner administration. According to Mameri, it was Wagner who told Odebrecht about the possibility of participating in the Paraná de las Palmas project.
“In that occasion, he (Wagner) pointed out that, if the company was interested in taking part of the Paraná de las Palmas project, it should partner up with three other local companies (Benito Roggio, Cartellone and Supercemento), and also make illicit payments to the Kirchner administration’s party, through public agents, that he would later appoint, starting with the first payments made to the joint venture for the work done”, relates Mameri. According to him, “said payments were to be made pari passu with the works’ progress, this being the only way to get the payments for the services performed by the joint venture to be prioritized”. Mameri states that Wagner set these terms as conditions for Odebrecht to be awarded the contract. “If the company did not agree to these conditions, its participation and especially its success in the public bidding would be jeopardised”. Later, Mameri learned that the public agent to whom the payments would be made was Oscar Raúl Biancuzzo, of state-owned company Aysa.
Another important point in the Argentine chapter of the company’s plea bargain deal comes from the testimony given by Márcio Faria da Silva, former chairman of Odebrecht Engenharia Industrial. In a motion sent to Edson Fachin in March 2017, Rodrigo Janot wrote that, in one of his testimonies, the executive reported the payment of bribes, with the goal of getting a contract for expanding two segments of Argentina’s gas pipelines awarded to the company. The first segment was under the responsibility of Argentine company Canmesa, and the second one under the Albanesi company.
Carlos Enrique Wagner, the same Argentine middleman mentioned by Mameri, is also named by Faria da Silva as the link between the company and the corruption scheme. Both companies would be able to subcontract Odebrecht, so long as bribes were paid to the employees named by Wagner. The motion to which JOTA had access does not give the names of the employees that received the bribe money. However, Janot states in the document that Faria da Silva testified that, after giving his authorization, the Structured Operations Sector paid US$ 25 million in bribes between 2007 and 2014.
PUBLIC CONTRACTS WITH POSSIBLE IRREGULARITIES
- Tunnelling for the Sarmiento Railway, in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area
- Building of the Paraná de las Palmas water purification plant (in Tigre, located in the Greater Buenos Aires area)
- Expansion of gas pipelines networks in different regions of the country (such as in the province of Córdoba)