By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The Federal Police in Brazil issued warrant arrests for twelve suspects in the 14th phase of the mega bribery and corruption scheme known as Operação Lava Jato (Carwash Operation). Among those arrested early Friday morning were the owner and president of Odebrecht and the president of Andrade Gutierrez, the two largest construction conglomerates in the country.
By late Friday morning (June 19th), the police had already arrested nine people. All of those arrested worked at one of the two construction companies.
“We should punish all those responsible,” said Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima, federal prosecutor at a press conference in Curitiba Friday morning. “The law should apply to all or it should apply to no one,” he said.
According to Lima, Paulo Roberto Costa and Pedro Barusco, two top Petrobras directors have admitted accepting bribes from Odebrecht and companies linked to the construction giant, through foreign bank accounts.
“Norberto Odebrecht Construction (CNO) confirms the operation of the federal police in its offices. CNO believes these warrants are unnecessary since the company and its executives, since the beginning of the Lava Jato operation have been willing to help with the investigation”, said a press release by Odebrecht.
During the press conference however, Romario de Paula, from the Federal Police said there is evidence that the presidents of the two construction giants had knowledge of the bribes being given. According to Paula bribes from Odebrecht to Petrobras executives may have totaled over R$500 million (US$161 million).
The Operation Lava Jato was launched in March of 2014 with the objective of dismantling criminal organizations which were involved in money laundering schemes and other crimes against Brazil’s financial system. Brazilian prosecutors responsible for the task-force looking into the Lava Jato Operation have stated that Petrobras executives received at least R$2.1 billion (US$677 million) in bribes and illicit funds from companies interested in multi-million dollar contracts with the oil giant.