Mon | Aug 20, 2018

Ex-Odebrecht CEO, symbol of graft probe, leaves jail

Published:Wednesday | December 20, 2017 | 12:00 AM
In this March 26, 2017 file photo, people march against corruption and in support of the Car Wash investigation on Copacabana beach, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


One of the most prominent people convicted in Latin America's largest corruption scandal left prison yesterday for house arrest after serving two-and-a-half years behind bars at a time when many Brazilians are becoming disillusioned with the graft investigation once hailed as a political game-changer.

Marcelo Odebrecht's release came a day after Brazil's top court halted investigations into several lawmakers, underscoring the limitations of the "Car Wash" investigation that uncovered nearly institutionalised corruption involving senior politicians in several countries and several major Brazilian companies.

Odebrecht, who was CEO of his family's company of the same name, cooperated with prosecutors and testified that executives routinely paid bribes and made illegal campaign contributions to politicians in exchange for favours. He was originally sentenced to 19 years in prison, but, once he began cooperating, that penalty was reduced to 10, with the agreement that the majority of it would be served under house arrest.

Odebrecht's conviction and jailing were seen as a major victory for Car Wash prosecutors. The testimony of Odebrecht and other executives revealed that, for years, the company had essentially captured the Brazilian state, paying bribes and kickbacks to whoever was in power, whoever might be able to do a favour here, award a contract there.

The corruption was so organised - and endemic - that it had its own department at Odebrecht, blandly named the Division of Structured Operations.

Yesterday, Odebrecht left prison and went to the federal court in the southern state of Parana, where an electronic bracelet was attached, the court said. Neither the court nor his representatives would say where he was headed next, but local media have reported he will serve out his term in his home in an upscale neighbourhood of Sao Paulo.