SAO PAULO: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro awarded a Brazilian construction giant at the heart of a huge corruption scandal across Latin America almost US$4 billion for public works in exchange for campaign donations, the newspaper Estado reported Sunday.
The payments to Odebrecht came to light as part of a Brazilian investigation.
The documents in question are in the possession of prosecutors in Brazil and Venezuela, the newspaper said.
According to the documents, Maduro considered the payments — not included in the Venezuelan budget — “very urgent.”
“In exchange for $35 million for the campaign in 2013, the president (Maduro) gave ‘priority’ to extraordinary funds to cover the Odebrecht works,” the newspaper said.
Venezuela’s top prosecutor Tarek William Saab has previously ruled out an investigation against Maduro.
“We are not going to work on speculation,” he told AFP last August, after his predecessor Luisa Ortega Diaz — who fled the country following her dismissal — said she was investigating the president and his inner circle.
According to the documents, Maduro started awarding the huge payments less than a month after he was elected in April 2013.
The works included extending Caracas’ metro system and a cable car project.
Estado reported that Brazil’s public prosecutor’s office got the information from testimonies of former Odebrecht director in Venezuela, Euzenando Azevedo, and consultants Monica Moura and Joao Santana, linked to the presidential campaigns of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff in Brazil.
The Odebrecht scandal led to the resignation of Peruvian president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski this week, and also implicated his predecessors Ollanta Humala and Alejandro Toledo.
It also led to the conviction of disgraced Ecuadoran vice president Jorge Glas.
In Brazil, the scandal has landed dozens of executives — including CEO Marcelo Odebrecht — in prison, as well impacting politicians including ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.