Panama comptroller: Odebrecht paid more bribes than admitted

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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The office of Panama's comptroller general is set to carry out a probe into seven infrastructure projects that were built by Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht in different areas of Panama City.

The projects under the microscope include the upgrade and widening of Domingo Díaz avenue, construction of phases 1 and 2 of the Brasil corridor, the rehabilitation of historic buildings in Panama City's old quarter, the connection between Balboa avenue and De Los Poetas avenue and construction of stretches 1, 2 and 3 of Panama City's coastal beltway, the comptroller's office said in a statement.

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These works were launched and developed under the administrations of former presidents Ricardo Martinelli and Martín Torrijos, according to the statement.

Comptroller general Federico Humbert met representatives of Panama's trade, industry and agriculture chamber (CCIAP) to request for their assistance in evaluating the projects.

During the meeting, Humbert questioned the amount in bribes that Odebrecht had admitted paying in exchange for public works contracts in Panama, which was based on information revealed in the company's plea deal with US authorities.

"It was not just US$59mn, it was more than that," Humbert said. "There were more than four people and more than one company involved," he added.

According to Odebrecht's plea deal, the bribes were paid to government officials and intermediaries from 2010-14. In return, the company collected over US$175mn in benefits.

GOVERNMENT LAWSUIT

In regard to the lawsuit that the Panamanian government has decided to file against Odebrecht, the president's cabinet named security minister Alexis Bethancourt as the person who will serve as plaintiff, representing Panama in the legal process.

President Juan Carlos Varela has said that the decision to sue the troubled Brazilian company was in the "interest of the state."

PICTURED: Panama's comptroller general Federico Humbert at a meeting with representatives from CCIAP.