Puebla, Mexico, January 20, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan authorities announced Thursday they were preparing to press charges against an unnamed suspect in the Odebrecht scandal.
Public Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz said an arrest warrant is being sought for the suspect, amid a broader investigation into the business dealings of Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht in Venezuela.
“We will investigate if there were bribes, [and] if some of our officials made a profit,” she told reporters in Caracas.
Ortega continued by revealing that her office had already requested Swiss authorities hand over any records of Venezuelans who have received deposits from Odebrecht. She also said investigators are preparing to head to Brazil.
Odebrecht’s business dealings have come under scrutiny across Latin America since the company admitted to orchestrating a massive international corruption scheme spanning 12 countries. For years, the company offered kickbacks to politicians in exchange for construction projects – many of which were never completed. In 2015, the firm’s former CEO Marcelo was sentenced in Brazil to over 19 years imprisonment for his role in the scandal. Then in December 2016, the company reached a leniency deal with US, Brazilian and Swiss prosecutors worth US$2 billion.
Venezuelan prosecutors have faced criticism for being slow to respond to the Odebrecht scandal, despite the country being one of the epicentres of the firm’s corruption scheme. According to the US plea bargain, Odebrecht and its business representatives had handed over roughly US$98 million in bribes to Venezuelan government officials and intermediaries since 2006 – the largest amount for any country outside Brazil.
No suspects have been named in Venezuela, though earlier this month a key opposition leader was questioned by the comptroller general in connection to the case. Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles was asked by the comptroller general to hand over any information relating to contracts granted by his government to Odebrecht. Capriles is the only high level Venezuelan official to be linked to the case so far, though he has denied any wrongdoing.
Last week, he said Odebrecht’s contracts in Miranda were inked well before he took office, and accused the Venezuelan government of using the case to further a political vendetta against him. Capriles narrowly lost elections in 2013 to President Nicolas Maduro, and has since been once of the country’s leading right-wing voices.
“They are trying to tarnish me through the Odebrecht case,” Capriles said.