Argentina slaps embattled firm Odebrecht with 1-year bid ban

Markets Associated Press

Argentina on Friday banned embattled Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht from bidding on public works projects in the country for 12 months due to investigations of bribes the company paid here and elsewhere.

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The announcement published in the government's official bulletin also cites corruption and money laundering cases in Brazil and other countries that have led to prison sentences, admission of guilt and clemency pleas by company executives.

The company said it was evaluating the decision and would make sure its rights are preserved.

"Odebrecht reiterates that it is committed to collaborating with authorities and that it is already adopting the necessary measures for an honest, ethical and transparent corporate behavior," a company statement said.

Odebrecht is a key focus of the "Operation Car Wash" investigation into a mammoth kickback scheme at Brazil's state-run oil company — the biggest corruption scandal in that country's history. The initial investigation was launched in 2014 and has mushroomed into related probes abroad because companies like Odebrecht operated across Latin America.

Company executives acknowledged to U.S. prosecutors earlier this year that they paid more than $700 million bribes to officials in 10 Latin American and two African nations in exchange for multimillion-dollar contracts with local governments. About $35 million in bribes were paid in Argentina between 2007 and 2014.

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Argentine Justice Minister German Garavano recently traveled to Washington to meet with a prosecutor and share information that can advance the Odebrecht case. But Argentine prosecutors say Argentina lacks a legal mechanism that would allow companies to provide information in exchange for leniency deals like those that have been signed in other nations.