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article imagePanama urges punishment of those who took Odebrecht bribes

By AFP     Dec 22, 2016 in Crime

Panama's government on Thursday warned of punishment for public employees who took any of the more than $59 million in bribes paid by Brazilian construction company Odebrecht in return for contracts.

The declaration by President Juan Carlos Varela's administration came a day after US officials said Odebrecht and its petrochemical affiliate Braskem had agreed to pay $3.5 billion in "the largest-ever global foreign bribery resolution."

The Odebrecht conglomerate pleaded guilty to bribing government officials and political parties to the tune of $788 million to secure business on three continents -- mostly in Brazil, but also in 11 other countries in Latin America and Africa.

Under the plea agreement, Brazil will receive 80 percent of Odebrecht's fines, while the United States and Switzerland will garner 10 percent each.

Varela's office said it "fully backed" investigations by prosecutors in Panama to prosecute and sanction "companies and persons involved in these acts."

A high-ranking Panamanian government official involved in infrastructure works was allegedly involved in the bribery, but the documents released so far have not named names.

Odebrecht received more than $175 million in profits from contracts obtained in Panama, many of which were awarded under the government of former president Ricardo Martinelli, who is living in exile in the United States.

Varela's government has asked for Martinelli's extradition to face charges that he spied on opponents, and of graft. Several of Martinelli's ministers have been imprisoned.

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