Odebrecht admits to paying bribes for Maracanã stadium contract

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Brazilian engineering group Odebrecht paid 7.3mn reais (US$2.3mn) in bribes to secure a contract to rebuild Rio's Maracanã stadium ahead of the 2014 World Cup, prosecutors have been told.

While the original contract for the work was US$228mn, the project ended up costing public coffers more than US$388mn, government news service Agência Brasil reported.

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According to a plea bargain statement by Odebrecht's head of structural operations, Benedito Barbosa da Silva Junior, government officials who benefited included former Rio de Janeiro governor Sérgio Cabral, jailed in November as part of the sprawling Lava Jato corruption probe.

The president of Rio's state audit court, Jonas Lopes, also received US$320,000 in bribes, according to testimonies from former Odebrecht executives Marcos Vidigal do Amaral, Leandro Andrade Azevedo and João Borba.

The amount siphoned to corrupt officials could have been greater if not for the Lava Jato investigation, the report said.

Maracanã stadium (CREDIT: AFP).

A 594mn-real concession contract to operate and maintain the Maracana stadium for 35 years was awarded to an Odebrecht led consortium in 2013.

The engineering firm held a 90% share in the business alongside local sports and entertainment group IMX (5%) and US-based sports and entertainment company AEG (5%).

Since October, the concessionaire (now 95% Odebrecht and 5% AEG) has been trying to pull out of the contract, claiming that the sporting complex needed repairs that were never carried out by the 2016 Olympic committee.

Earlier this year, a Rio de Janeiro court rejected the concessionaire's request but this week's news may change the scenario.