World / Politics

Odebrecht: The scandal shaking Latin America from Brazil to Peru and beyond


The corruption scandal involving Latin America’s biggest construction company, Odebrecht, took a dramatic turn Wednesday with the suicide of former Peruvian President Alan Garcia, who was embroiled in the affair.

According to the U.S. Justice Department, Odebrecht paid $788 million in bribes across 12 countries, and presidents as well as former heads of state and ministers were involved.

Here is a recap of the main countries hit by the ongoing scandal.


Brazil is at the origin of the sprawling corruption probe, known as “Car Wash,” which has claimed numerous corporate and political scalps.

Building everything from the Miami Heat basketball arena to a hydroelectric dam in Angola, Odebrecht S.A. has long been one of Brazil’s economic giants.

At the peak of his career at the company founded by his grandfather, Marcelo Odebrecht — originally sentenced to 19 years in prison but now serving a reduced sentence in his luxurious Sao Paulo mansion — was one of the most influential people in the country.

In 2018, Odebrecht agreed to pay a $700 million settlement to the Brazilian government as part of a $2.6 billion package the company has committed to shell out to the United States, Switzerland and Brazil.

Also in 2018, former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sentenced to 12 years and one month in prison for accepting bribes from the company.

Other politicians in Brazil embroiled in the scandal include another former president, Michel Temer.


Peru is the other country hit hardest by the scandal. Odebrecht has admitted paying at least $29 million in bribes to Peruvian officials since 2004.

Garcia was one of four Peruvian ex-presidents embroiled in various corruption scandals, along with Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (2016-18), Ollanta Humala (2011-16) and Alejandro Toledo (2001-06).

Kuczynski in 2018 became the first president to resign over his connections to Odebrecht. He admitted receiving around $5 million from the company. Kuczynski was taken to a hospital suffering from high blood pressure on Wednesday. He had been arrested a week before and was being held under preliminary detention until April 20.


Ecuador’s vice president, Jorge Glas, was sentenced to six years in prison in 2017 for receiving $13.5 million in kickbacks. He was formally stripped of his office by Congress in 2018.

According to the prosecution, 22 people are in detention and 24 cases have been opened.


The scandal has also hit Venezuela, where the company has admitted to paying $98 million in bribes — the biggest payoff outside Brazil.

President Nicolas Maduro and members of the ruling party have been suspected of involvement in the affair, but the country’s justice system has shut down any investigations.

In Panama, Odebrecht has admitted paying $59 million in bribes. Two sons and three former ministers of the ex-Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli have been accused of collecting bribes.

In the Dominican Republic, the company has admitted paying $92 million in bribes to gain contracts in the country. Seven people have been accused of corruption.