Jailed Odebrecht CEO criticizes plea deals in Brazil

Reuters News
Posted: Sep 01, 2015 12:41 PM

By Caroline Stauffer

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The jailed chief executive of Brazil's largest engineering group said on Tuesday he had no intention of signing a plea deal and criticized suspects who are collaborating with a massive corruption investigation.

"To snitch, you have to have something to snitch," Marcelo Odebrecht, CEO of Odebrecht SA, told lawmakers running a congressional probe who traveled to the southern city of Curitiba, where he has been held for more than two months.

He said Odebrecht SA had been unable to start some projects because of the investigation but that otherwise the company with revenue of 107.7 billion reais ($29 billion) last year remained strong.

Odebrecht, who was charged in July with corruption and money laundering, declined to respond to specific questions about the price fixing and political kickback case focused on state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras.

He said it would have been normal for him to speak with President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva about Petrobras, but that he couldn't remember any conversations.

Among dozens of executives under investigation for overcharging Petrobras on contracts and using the excess to bribe politicians, Odebrecht had an especially close relationship to former President Lula.

Their close history has led to speculation over what it would mean for Odebrecht to collaborate with prosecutors as other executives have.

Prosecutors and police say they are not investigating Lula or Rousseff in the Petrobras case, although Lula is being investigated for alleged influence peddling favoring Odebrecht SA abroad after he left office.

Lula denies wrongdoing on the trips and has not been charged.

At least 28 defendants had signed plea deals with prosecutors as of last month and more are negotiating as investigators prepare charges against sitting politicians.

Plea deals, widely used in the United States, are a new and controversial legal tool in Brazil.

Odebrecht, the third-generation leader of his family firm, said he had inherited morals that would not permit collaborating with prosecutors.

He said if one of his children had done something wrong, "I'd maybe have more of a problem with the one who snitched than the one who did it."

($1 = 3.7 reais)

(Reporting by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by David Gregorio)