Prosecutors in Argentina are investigating nearly 100 companies, including Brazilian construction firms, in a vast probe into the suspected bribery of government officials.
The probe was sparked by Brazil’s cascading "Operation Car Wash" graft case, which has resulted in the jailing of company bosses and charges being laid against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The Argentinian unit of Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht is now under investigation for possible bribery, Reuters reports.
The news follows the jailing for 19 years of Odebrecht’s former chief executive Marcelo Odebrecht for his role in the Brazilian kickback scheme involving state oil firm, Petrobras.
Other Brazilian firms under investigation in Argentina include Andrade Gutierrez, OAS and Camargo Correa, a source told Reuters.
The Argentine investigation began in December, the source said, and was examining company operations from 2006 to 2012.
Investigators have asked Argentina’s finance ministry to provide details of all payments to the companies under investigation, the source said, adding that the country’s planning ministry would be at the centre of the probe.
Prosecutors in Brazil believe Odebrecht formed a cartel with other companies to inflate the price of contracts awarded by Petrobras and channeled some of the illicit money to politicians.
"Brazilian prosecutors said there was a reasonable suspicion that the same scheme was replicated here in Argentina," Reuters’ source said.
But three months into the investigation no evidence of bribery has yet been found, the source said.
Photograph: Argentina’s Congressional Palace, seat of the country’s government, in Buenos Aires (Wikimedia Commons)