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Corruption Brazilian construction giant in money laundering probe

The ongoing investigation, which began in April 2014, has been nicknamed "Operation Car Wash".


On Wednesday, the Swiss Federal Prosecutor announced the inclusion of Latin America’s largest construction company, Odebrecht SA, in a money laundering investigation concerning Brazilian oil giant Petrobras.

The Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office in Bern has been working with Brazilian authorities since March to investigate Petrobras in response to allegations of bribery and money laundering – allegations implicating the owners of some 300 Swiss bank accounts. The case is thought to be one of the largest corruption scandals in Brazil’s history.

Specifically, Petrobras executives are suspected of accepting bribes from Odebrecht, paid via the Swiss accounts, in exchange for charging inflated prices for contracts. The contract payments were then skimmed, with the cream going to Brazilian politicians.

As the investigation heated up this past spring, Switzerland froze $400 million in assets across over 30 banks, of which $120 million were released for repatriation to Brazil.

Odebrecht SA CEO Marcelo Odebrecht was arrested in Sao Paulo last month, and formal charges are anticipated soon. It is hoped that the inclusion of Odebrecht in the investigation will help hone in on the trail of corruption.

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