The U.S. Department of Justice has called “the largest foreign bribery case in history.”
After the Brazilian multinational Odebrecht admitted his guilt in a cash-for-contracts corruption scandal in 12 of the united nations, it was committed to change its ways.
But the Brazil authorities are still wrestling with the ciphered system of the computer used to run the company, unlawful payment system.
The federal police building in Curitiba, in the southern state of Parana, has hardly been out of the news. In June 2015, the convicted former ceo, Marcelo Odebrecht, has been brought here.
More recently, the HQ has received the former president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, in prison for corruption on charges related to the entire Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation is based here.
Along one of the spacious, tiled corridors, in front of a regular computer lab, there is a sealed room with a complex mechanism of entry. It is insulated with concrete, like a bunker.
“This room is completely isolated from external communication – internet, phones. And access is restricted. Even I, as a manager, I’m not allowed to enter”, explains Fabio Salvador, the technical supervisor.
Inside, eight specialized police officers and a technical assistant Odebrecht have worked since the month of September for the crack of one of the company’s computer systems, Mywebday.The prosecutors ‘speechless’
In the case brought by the Department of Justice, with Brazil and Switzerland in December 2016, Odebrecht and its subsidiary, petrochemical, Braskem, admitted to the corruption, to the tune of $788m (£553m) and has agreed to a record fine of at least $3.5 billion.
The construction giant paid politicians, political parties, officials of state-owned enterprises, lawyers, bankers, and policy makers, in order to secure lucrative contracts in Brazil and abroad.
In addition to being the largest international corruption cases, Odebrecht story has a component that makes it exceptional: it was a company that created a made to measure service to manage its crooked deals – something prosecutors in Brazil and the united states had never seen before.
“In the Odebrecht case, there are a lot of reasons for you to become speechless,” said Deltan Dallagnol, the senior prosecutor, in Curitiba.
“How a company has created a complete system only to pay bribes, and how many public officials have been implicated. This case involved nearly a third of Brazil’s senators and almost half of all Brazil’s governors.
“One company paid bribes in support of 415 of the politicians and of the 26 political parties in Brazil. It makes the infamous Watergate scandal look like a couple of kids playing in a sandbox.”
And the web of corruption has tentacles reaching into Africa and across the region.
The president of Peru was forced to resign last month in claims related to Odebrecht. The vice-president of Ecuador is in prison.
Politicians and officials from 10 countries in Latin America continue to fall under the Odebrecht bus. The shadow of the budget
Odebrecht was not the initial goal of prosecutors in Curitiba. Lava Jato corruption case which is wrapped Brazil – to put a part of the rich and powerful, including former president Lula, behind bars – began in 2014 as a money-laundering investigation.
Rather than Petrobras, of Brazil, the state oil company, where executives have been appointed by the political parties in power. Investigators have uncovered evidence that a “cartel” of engineering firms, including Odebrecht – a bid-rigging and pay bribes to obtain contracts at inflated prices.
Petrobras had become a huge piggy bank for its officers, the politicians and the political parties of raid. It is estimated that over 2 billion dollars was paid in bribes, while Petrobras has lost almost $14bn through the pricing, while the system existed.
Therefore, in 2014, prosecutors began to investigate the most influential member of this cartel, Odebrecht.
The society of the corruption department, which is known by the rather prosaic name of the Division, Structured Transactions, managed its own shadow budget.
Advocate testimony, Marcelo Odebrecht told prosecutors that are all the world to the head of the company knew of 0.5% to 2% of the income of the company was moved off-the-books.
“We are talking about a company that charged a 100 billion reais per year. If we are talking about 2%, it is around 2 billion reais,” he said.
In other words, up to approximately $ 600 million has been committed for non-reported payments. Structured transactions, paid bribes through a complex and often multi-layered network of shell companies and offshore finance.
In Brazil, the cash was delivered by doleiros – black market dealers. Or by “mules”, who traveled with shrink-wrapped bricks of bank notes hidden under their clothes. Brazilian politicians were generally paid in cash. Others had secret bank accounts.Sleaze machine
It was the organized crime, highly organised crime. All financial activities has been systematized with the aid of two parallel, made-to-measure computer systems.
The first has helped internal communications within the Odebrecht and also with the outside world, the financial operators. The second, that of the Federal Police in Curitiba are still not able to access it completely – was used to make and process applications for payment.
But none of this was known to the authorities in the early stages of the investigation. A breakthrough was going to seal the fate of the well-oiled sleaze machine to Odebrecht.
By 2015, there was enough evidence against the company to the arrest of the unco-operative ceo, Marcelo Odebrecht. At the beginning of 2016, the Federal Police, access to the Hotmail account of one of the Structured Operations management.
They found e-mails related to financial transactions, and a spreadsheet created by a secretary of the section, Maria Lucia Tavares. His home was raided.
Stashed in a wardrobe have been printed from the Mywebday decomposition system of illegal payments. Tavares had paper copies of her pattern to look at, and then hidden as the vise is tightened, to Odebrecht. Within the division, she was responsible for making payments.
“I didn’t know who were the beneficiaries of the funding. We used code names, but I have never said who these people really were, and I’ve never been curious about,” Tavares said of the prosecutors.
So Tavares has never been interested to know the identity of Dracula, the Sauerkraut and the Viagra. The evidence destroyed
A lot of politicians and public servants given a nickname have been identified. But not all of them, said the chief of the police of Parana, Mauricio Valeixo.
“We hope to identify those that we don’t know. And for the other, we need to get more information, because, for example, it is not enough to have a nickname,” he said. “We have to understand the reason for which someone could have been given$200,000.”
The chief of police expects more arrests in the Odebrecht case, especially once the technicians have cracked Mywebday. So, why is this so complicated?
“About Marcelo Odebrecht mobile phone, we found the information that there was order to destroy evidence, to clean the devices,” said the prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol.
“It seems that the devices that contained the files that can open the system have been destroyed. We have tried to rebuild the system in different ways.
“We asked the FBI for help. It turned out that we would need a lot of computers to do just that for over 100 years so that we can have a stroke of luck.”
But Fabio Salvador, the technical director of the federal police, is optimistic. His team had a breakthrough at the end of February.
“This is a big fight for the criminals’ expertise in Brazil,” he said. “And we’re going to win.”
You will know more about the Corruption Embedded – Odebrecht History.