On Thursday, June 1, Brazilian courts will send the Argentine Prosecutor’s Office (Ministerio Público Fiscal) all files regarding the involvement of Odebrecht construction company executives in Lava Jato — one of the largest corruption scandals to hit the region in decades. The files contain confessions from 77 high-ranking officials and additional evidence revealing the identities of the recipients of the estimated US$ 35 million the company paid in Argentina between 2007 and 2015 to make sure it would be awarded public works contracts.
However, this does not mean that the Argentines involved will be sent to the defendant’s bench any time soon. La Nación reported that a special clause of the plea deal Odebrecht officials reached with Brazilian courts determined the framework for their cooperation with “foreign authorities” and established that the country’s prosecutors will only be able to share information with their counterparts if certain conditions are apply.
Besides, authorities from the Justice Ministry — and the rest of the Macri administration — are currently crossing accusations with the General Prosecutor, Alejandra Gils Carbó, over the reasons why the process to identify bribe recipients is not moving forward as smoothly as it should.
- Read more: Government Could Take Public Works Contracts From Odebrecht If A Plea Deal Is Not Reached
In an attempt to go around this official who most other government authorities consider to be part of the opposition and staunchly loyal to former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the Justice Ministry and the Anti-Corruption office — the Executive’s legal leg — tried to reach an agreement with Odebrecht themselves. They believe that if Gils Carbó receives the information, she could stall its disclosure and try to interfere with the investigation, as it might affect people from her camp.
Different investigative journalists revealed that, as a result of this, Macri wants the Anti-Corruption office to get access to the evidence and make it public as soon as possible.
According to Infobae’s Roman Lejtman, the President is certain that no one close to him will be involved, even though Federal Intelligence Agency (AFI) Gustavo Arribas and his cousin Angelo Calcaterra, former head of a construction company that worked with Odebrecht in public works were some of the initially targeted. In contrast, he strongly suspects that several former government officials will find themselves in hot water after the Argentine officials take a look at the evidence.
However, as mentioned before, this initiative faces a pretty big legal obstacle: the nonexistence of a framework that allows the government to reach an agreement like the one the company is proposing. Odebrecht offered to reveal “the crimes, their authors, it’s co-authors and necessary participants” as well as providing documents and further proof. In exchange, they requested the government “not initiate, back up, push or exercise any criminal action against the company.” In the current legal system, that would mean granting impunity to Odebrecht’s officials, Justice Minister Germán Garavano explained in a radio interview.
Moreover, there are clauses in the agreement the company reached with Brazilian authorities that prevents third countries from using that information against Odebrecht officials with whom they haven’t reached their own cooperation agreements with.
As a result of this, government authorities are planning on debating a “criminal responsibility for businesses” law, which allows it to reach “efficient cooperation agreements with those who have been involved in the commission of crimes. And they are planning to make it retroactive — something extremely uncommon — so it can be applied to this particular case.
Odebrecht also requested to: set the fine it should pay for its crimes — US$ 35 million, the same amount as the bribes it admitted to paying; to be allowed to continue with the public works in which it’s already involved; and be cleared to continue bidding for more works in the future. The government hasn’t answered these requests yet.
Under the set of current circumstances, the information will go directly to the Argentine prosecutors and won’t be made public. The prosecutor’s office will announce the creation of a bi-national team of prosecutors (Argentine and Brazilian, of course) today, making the list of people who will investigate the Argentine leg of the corruption scandal public.