You almost have to hand it to Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction giant that did to bribery what Henry Ford did to car-making.

In the wake of the sprawling, multi-billion dollar settlement reached with prosecutors from several countries, the stories coming out about the way the company managed its kickback empire are staggering. Take it away, Wall Street Journal,

Odebrecht sought and utilized smaller banks in countries with strict secrecy laws to help carry out the scheme, paying extra fees, higher rates and a percentage of each illicit transaction to certain executives to ensure their cooperation, according to court documents filed by the Justice Department and made public Wednesday.

In one case in Antigua, Odebrecht bought the local branch of a bank, allowing other members of the conspiracy, including politicians from multiple countries, to open accounts and receive transfers without arousing attention.

Odebrecht also created a stand-alone internal division that “effectively functioned as a bribe department,” the documents said. Dubbed the “Division of Structured Operations,” the department used an off-the-book communications system that allowed Odebrecht employees to communicate with each other and with outside financial operators and co-conspirators through secure emails and instant messages using code names and passwords, the documents said.

Odebrecht has now officially admitted paying $98 million in bribes to Venezuelan officials.

That’s all documented, negro-sobre-blanco in the plea agreement.

So it’ll be dead easy for Venezuelan authorities to investigate.

Un tiro al suelo, ¿right?


Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.


  1. We know the Maduro government will do absolutely nothing. Perhaps Ortega Díaz will declare, as she did in 2013 with the La-Hojilla case, that an investigation will be carry out…expecting the opposition and the public in general to forget and go to another scandal as we are so much used to.

    Still, I think the opposition – if there were people there with some brains – should do all it can to announce to the world it is demanding an investigation by the government. Because what is said in Venezuela is always quickly forgotten, the opposition should actually used registered letters to Venezuelan embassies abroad
    and also send to public emails with open cc to big international media expecting an investigation and making it clear if an investigation is not carry out, after a regime change the new powers might prosecute those who did nothing now.

  2. 98 millions sounds too low for the scale of contracts they had in Venezuela. They must have paid a heck of a lot more before 2006, and managed to hide some from 2006 – 2015.

  3. I can bet BsF100 that in those documents there is, at least, one payment for a contract done in a opposition controlled alcaldia/governacion… and therefore an oppo alcalde/gobernador involved…

  4. Two additional points stand out for me: 1) Considering how thoroughly rotten the Odebrecht organization is, construction of their projects seems to have been technically competent. 2) How utterly careless Odebrecht was in terms of FCPA avoidance.

    • “…their projects seems to have been technically competent.”

      I am not so sure. There have been several spectacular industrial accidents in recent years on their projects. In my experience, shoddy industrial safety goes hand in hand with shoddy quality control.

  5. I’m from Brazil. The construction cartel there (Odebrecht, Camargo Correa, and others) is absolutely massive. It grew out of the modernization building spree in the 70s (dams, roads, etc). They are all very competent (engineering-wise), but also absolutely corrupt. Everybody knows they act in tandem to split the big government contracts among the members of the cartel, and up until last year or so, the cartel was deemed untouchable because nobody could prove anything, and the omerta’ law was in place.

    The castle of cards finally came down when the Federal Police managed to extract a confession from Odebrecht’s president in exchange from less time in jail, and we are seeing the ramifications now. This will go on for years, and many many people will end up in jail, or at least we hope so.

  6. Back in 2007-08, living in São Paulo, sometimes I had to go to our Guarulhos office and on the way I always drove past an Odebrecht office there. They were already in Venezuela, and I knew there were guisos. I remember thinking “some day y’all will go down in flames”. My wish just came true.

  7. […] Santana, who was known as the “president-maker” for his successful campaigns in the region (from Lula and Dilma in Brazil to Danilo Medina in the Dominican Republic) was arrested last year. According to a recent investigative report from Venezuelan news site Armando.Info, Moura declared to the court that Chavez’s last campaign cost 35 million dollars and that the money for it came from offshore bank accounts linked to Odebrecht’s very sophisticated bribing structure. […]


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here