Crooked business as usual in Angola, activists say, after Brazil firm admits bribes

Mon Mar 20, 2017 7:43pm GMT

By David Lewis and Brad Brooks

NAIROBI/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Angola's authorities have ignored the admission by a Brazilian firm that it paid $50 million in bribes to secure contracts in the country, activists say, despite demands from watchdogs that it join international investigations into the corruption.

Brazilian engineering conglomerate Odebrecht admitted to the illegal payments in Angola as one part of a guilty plea in December in 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. CEO Marcelo Odebrecht was jailed for 19 years in 2016 for paying bribes.

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," said anti-corruption campaigner Rafael Marques de Morais.

Marques de Morais demanded an investigation in Angola in January after the U.S. 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."

Over the past two decades Angola has experienced some of the fastest economic growth in the world thanks to an offshore oil boom. But most of its 21.5 million people remain in abject poverty, while a small elite have prospered.

Odebrecht grew to become Angola's largest private-sector employer as it won contracts for projects ranging from construction and agro-processing to mining, including the 2,000 MW Lauca hydroelectric project on the Kwanza river.   Continued...

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