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Brazilian construction tycoon to help corruption prosecutors

Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - 08:55
37688638 - 09_03_2016 - BRAZIL-PETROBRAS-CORRUPTION-ODEBRECHT-FILE.jpg
A jailed Brazilian billionaire construction tycoon has signed a plea deal with corruption investigators that will see him spilling the beans on his dealings with Brazil's political elite, media reports said on Tuesday.

[SAO PAULO] A jailed Brazilian billionaire construction tycoon has signed a plea deal with corruption investigators that will see him spilling the beans on his dealings with Brazil's political elite, media reports said on Tuesday.

Marcelo Odebrecht, in prison for his role in the sprawling corruption network centered on state oil company Petrobras, is one of the biggest scalps claimed by prosecutors so far.

If Brazilian media reports about his agreeing to turn state's witness are confirmed, then dozens more high level figures could risk a similar fate, accelerating Brazil's corruption-fueled political meltdown.

The plea bargain - in which Odebrecht would seek a reduction of his prison sentence in exchange for aiding prosecutors - was sealed last Thursday after months of negotiations, Valor newspaper said.

Odebrecht, a construction conglomerate with projects around the world and a huge presence in Brazil, would not comment on the reports. Marcelo Odebrecht was sentenced in March to 20 years prison for his role in the Petrobras scheme.

Prosecutors would also not confirm the report.

For years, corrupt executives at outside contractors overbilled Petrobras in collusion with the company's leaders and politicians. Bribes and slush fund money funneled into political parties' campaign war chests.

Already a major portion of Congress members have been accused of involvement in the scheme, as have several ministers in the new government assembled by acting president Michel Temer, who took over after the suspension of president Dilma Rousseff to face an impeachment trial.

Odebrecht was Petrobras' biggest private sector contractor, responsible for huge projects, and was deeply involved in the scheme to fleece the oil giant.

According to Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, the plea bargain will extend to cooperation by the construction company itself.

Odebrecht is ready to come clean on donations made to political campaigns, including to Rousseff's reelection bid in 2014 and that of her main opponent in the tight race Aecio Neves, the report said.

AFP