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US fines Odebrecht $2.6 billion

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Odebrecht has admitted to paying bribes to officials across the region. Odebrecht has admitted to paying bribes to officials across the region.
Odebrecht has admitted to paying bribes to officials across the region. LA PRENSA/Archivo

A US judge ordered Odebrecht to pay $2.6 billion in fines after admitting that it bribed officials around the world to gain contracts. 

Odebrecht, the largest construction company in Latin America, pleaded guilty in the United States Dec. 21, admitting that it had engaged in a "massive" scheme of bribes and fraudulent tenders dating back to at least 2001. 

It admitted to making secret payments of about $788 million to foreign government officials, their representatives and political parties in several countries. 

Odebrecht is expected to pay $ 2.39 billion to Brazil, $93 million to the United States and $116 million to Switzerland, US District Judge Raymond Dearie said. He agreed with prosecutors that although Odebrecht had agreed in December to pay a fine of $4.5 billion, it is only able to pay $2.6 billion. 

Even so, it is the highest fine imposed in the world in a bribery case. 

William Burck, Odebrecht's lawyer, declined to comment. In addition to the fines, the company agreed to have a monitor for three years to ensure compliance.

A subsidiary of Odebrecht, the petrochemical company Braskem, also pleaded guilty in December. 

Braskem was fined $632 million in January. 

The two companies were accused of bribing officials of Petrobras to obtain contracts. 

The cases mark the first resolution in the United States of charges related to the Lava Jato investigation. 

US prosecutors said that in 2006, Odebrecht had a "Structured Operations Division," which reported to the company's highest levels and operated as an "independent bribe department." 

The section made illicit payments using a complex network of fictitious offshore companies to conceal transactions, according to the United States.

The company had "inadequate anti-corruption controls" and failed to implement corrective measures, the United States said. 

Odebrecht fired 51 employees who participated in the scheme. 

The company also created the position of chief compliance officer and increased the number of employees who oversee compliance measures. 

The Lava Jato investigation, which initially focused on illegal payments made to Petrobras executives, spread to other industries in Brazil, involving construction companies, banks, shipyards and political leaders from various parties.

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