The Odebrecht case involved bribery and corruption allegations reaching multiple countries throughout the Americas. Now reports indicate that officials from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Mexico, Peru, and even the notoriously corrupt Venezuela, along with the European nation of Portugal, have agreed to “start a combined task force with bilateral and multilateral investigative teams to coordinate a probe” of the company.
As with all corruption investigations in Brazil, they draw back to the origination in Operation Car Wash, the investigation of the Brazilian energy giant Petrobras and its systemic bribery and corruption over a period of year. Odebrecht was tied at the hip with Petrobras in this corruption, and this portion of the investigation will review the conduct of other construction companies which did business with both Petrobras and other South American governments.
For The Man From FCPA, this development is interesting and significant for several reasons. The first is the scope of the joint operation, which when one includes the U.S. Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission, is literally the entire breadth of the western hemisphere. As governments have changed in South American countries, the scope of prior corruption is being investigated. In both Peru and Chile the most recent Presidents are under investigation for having accepted bribes from Odebrecht. It is certainly not too far-fetched to believe that other construction companies were engaged in similar conduct.
Any sharing of information between countries at the investigatory level can only be seen as a positive for curtailing of such conduct going forward. This new development from the 11 countries points out yet again that the fight against the global scourge of bribery and corruption is truly taking on an international response. As the Justice Department and SEC have for several years been training prosecutors in other countries, it seems these efforts are finally coming to fruition.