Angola: Brazil’s Odebrecht denies undue payments to firms linked to president

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President Joao Lourenco

BRAZIL-BASED construction company Odebrecht on Thursday denied having made improper payments to companies linked to Angola’s president, Joao Lourenço, as alleged in a report by consultancy Pangea Risk, and said that it was willing to cooperate with any investigation by prosecutors ‘to clarify the facts.’

Pangea, in a report this week that was cited by Portugal’s Expresso newspaper stated that senior Angolan officials, including Lourenço, are being investigated in the US for alleged violations of that country’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), illegal banking transactions, bank fraud to buy property in the US and an attempt to defraud the US Department of Justice.

Among the companies cited in the report is Odebrecht, which is alleged in 2017 to have made a payment of $20 million (€16.5 million) to Orion, a communications agency in which Angola’s first lady, Ana Dias Lourenço, has a stake.

In a statement released on Thursday, the company’s board denies any such payment, as well as any other undue payments to companies and individuals mentioned by Pangea (formerly Exx Africa).

In its report, the consultancy alleges that part of the payment is believed to have been used to fund the governing MPLA party’s campaign for the August 2017 general elections, which brought Lourenço to power the following month. If that was the case, it points out, the payment would constitute a violation of anti-money laundering regulations and Angola’s own Public Probity Law.

Odebrecht, for its part, stresses that it on 21 December 2016 signed an agreement with the US Department of Justice, relating to events prior to 2017, and that its activities from February 2017 onwards have been monitored by independent auditors appointed by the department and by Brazil’s own federal Public Prosecutor’s Office.

In April 2017, the Brazilian media reported that the construction company had reached an agreement with the US authorities to pay $2.6bn in fines in Brazil, the US and Switzerland due to outstanding bribery cases.

At the time, Odebrecht was also trying to negotiate settlements with other countries, such as Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Panama and Portugal.

The company’s bribery schemes were discovered as part of the Operation Lava Jato investigation in Brazil; they also involved the payment of bribes to officials in Angola and Mozambique.

In August last year Expresso reported that Odebrecht had presented the Angolan government with a proposal in which it was willing to pay compensation for any damages relating to several construction contracts signed in the country.

In the statement released today, Odebrecht says that the US Department of Justice in November 2020 concluded its independent audit, after three years of systematic monitoring, so certifying the compliance system for being able to prevent and detect possible violations of anti-corruption laws.

‘This certification concluded positively the internal and external transformation process initiated by Odebrecht from December 2016,’ adds the document issued by the Brazilian company’s board.

The statement also says that it is ‘at the disposal of the authorities of all countries” in which it is present “to collaborate with justice for and in the clarification of the facts that need to be clarified.’

 

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