Brazilian construction company Odebrecht admitted to having paid US $35 million in bribes to Argentine officials in exchange for being awarded state contracts between 2007 and 2014, during the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administrations. During that period, the company was awarded public works projects such as the building of pipelines, a water processing plant and a refinery for state-run oil company YPF. But most notably of them all, it was one of the companies that got the contract to get the Sarmiento train line underground.
Odebrecht is a key part of the so-called “Lava Jato” investigation (often referred to as Operation Carwash by the English speaking media), which revealed corrupt practices all across the Brazilian political spectrum. Company President, Marcelo Odebrecht, has spent the last year in prison. The information regarding the bribes comes after the company accepted paying a US $3.5 billion fine as a result of its involvement in the practices.
“Odebrecht S.A announces the signing of an agreement to solve the investigation regarding the company’s participation in the realization of illicit practices in benefit of the companies part of the economic group,” the company explained in a press release.
Besides Argentina — and Brazil, of course — company representatives admitted having paid bribes in other 10 countries and explained it got them contracts worth US $12 billion between 2001 and 2006.
After news surfaced, GEN party Deputy Margarita Stolbizer officially requested a prosecutor’s office conducts a “preliminary investigation” over the alleged bribes.
The contract to get the emblematic Sarmiento train line underground is the most visible project of the portfolio Odebrecht was awarded. The company had a part of the large-scale project whose main contractor was IECSA, a building company belonging to President Mauricio Macri’s cousin, Angelo Calcaterra.
The undertaking was first announced in 2006 as one of the largest infrastructure projects in Argentine history. As mentioned, Odebrecht had a rather small participation in it, but when IECSA didn’t get enough funding to follow through with the project, the Brazilian company requested credit from its national bank, BNDS and took over. However, it never followed through on that either with President Mauricio Macri announcing the State would be in charge of getting the funding, and IECSA took over the project again.