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Angola silent despite Brazilian firm admitting to bribes

Companies
Angola - Angola’s authorities have ignored the admission by a Brazilian firm that it paid $50 million (R627 million) in bribes to secure contracts in the country, activists say, despite demands from watchdogs that it joins international investigations into the corruption.

Brazilian engineering conglomerate Odebrecht admitted to the illegal payments as part of a guilty plea in December in a New York court, in which it confessed to paying $788 million in bribes, mostly across Latin America.

The company has been at the centre of vast corruption investigations in its home country and eight other Latin American states where it has admitted making the illegal payments. Chief executive Marcelo Odebrecht was jailed for 19 years in 2016 for paying bribes.

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Brazil's Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot, listens during a meeting of the Council of Prosecutors in Brasilia, Brazil, Monday, March 13, 2017. According to the Brazilian press Janot sent to the Supreme Court requests for investigating ministers and deputies involved in the Odebrecht corruption scandal. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

But in Angola, which, along with Mozambique, is the only country outside of Latin America on the list of places where it has admitted paying bribes, “there has been absolute silence”, anti-corruption campaigner Rafael Marques de Morais said.

Marques de Morais demanded an investigation in Angola in January after the court published the plea deal detailing the company’s admissions, but said he was not surprised to receive no response from the authorities.

“The point is that there is no official interest in fighting corruption, or even pretending that there is an interest in fighting corruption. The Angolan judicial system wants this to go away because of the involvement of senior officials.”

Odebrecht grew to become Angola’s largest private-sector employer as it won contracts for projects ranging from construction and agro-processing to mining.

The company said the bribery case had no impact on its operations in Angola.

Angola has no government spokesman. Attempts to obtain comment from the office of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos were unsuccessful.

Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International describes Angola as one of the most corrupt states on earth, ranked 164th out of 176 countries on its index of perceived corruption.

The plea agreement also detailed bribery in Mozambique, but the amounts described were far smaller: $900 000 in corrupt payments made by Odebrecht officials between 2011 and 2014. As in Angola, the case is little discussed in Mozambique. Government officials there declined to comment. 

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