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article imagePanama sets up special office to probe alleged Odebrecht bribes

By AFP     Dec 28, 2016 in World

Panama's state prosecutor's office on Wednesday announced it was setting up a special office to investigate alleged bribery of officials by Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht as it bid to secure public projects.

Part of the 11-person team chosen for the task has experience in corruption probes against officials in the government of former president Ricardo Martinelli, a statement said.

Panama on Tuesday said it was barring Odebrecht from bidding for future public tenders, and was seeking to remove the company from projects it was already involved in.

They include a new line of Panama City's metro system, a fourth bridge over the Panama Canal and plan for a hydroelectric dam that would now be scrapped.

Three Panamanian prosecutors are in the United States this week seeking information about the alleged Odebrecht bribes.

The US Justice Department recently reported that Odebrecht had paid bribes worth hundreds of millions of dollars to obtain contracts in nine Latin American countries.

It said the construction company paid more than $59 million in bribes to Panama between 2010 and 2014 to obtain contracts valued at $175 million.

Two sons of Martinelli have denied Brazilian newspaper reports that they had received $6 million intended as a bribe from Odebrecht for their father.

Martinelli lives in voluntary exile in Miami. The Panamanian government has requested his extradition on allegations of espionage and corruption.

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