New Car Wash testimony involves three South American leaders

. Sep 25, 2019
south american leaders evo morales ollanta humala Former Peruvian President Ollanta Humala and Bolivian President Evo Morales

Operation Car Wash, the biggest corruption investigation in Brazil’s history, has long since spilled over the country’s borders. Construction firm Odebrecht—the central focus of the Car Wash probe—admitted to being involved in corrupt deals in several other countries, leading to vast political fallout and the suicide of a former head of state. Now, new testimony indicates that OAS, another big player in the Car Wash scandal, may have engaged in similar dealings around the continent.

</p> <h2>Odebrecht&#8217;s malfeasance in Latin America</h2> <p>With regard to Odebrecht, allegations, accusations and subsequent convictions for dealings abroad centered largely on Peru. The brave Southern Interoceanic Highway project—a monster roadway stretching for 2,600 kilometers—was led by Odebrecht and turned out to be a pit of corruption, with the Brazilian firm paying roughly <a href="">USD 20 million in bribes</a> to former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo.&nbsp;</p> <p>Subsequent investigations led to Mr. Toledo&#8217;s three successors coming under the microscope. Alan Garcia (president between 2006 and 2011) was the subject of an arrest warrant in 2019 connected to receiving bribes from Odebrecht. Before he was taken into custody, he shot himself in the head. In July 2017, Ollanta Humala (2011–2016) was arrested, when state witnesses told the Brazilian federal police he had received bribes from Odebrecht.</p> <p>Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (2016–2018) resigned when Peru&#8217;s Congress launched impeachment proceedings against him, with accusations that he lied about receiving <a href="">payments from Odebrecht</a>.</p> <p>Outside of Peru, the company admitted to paying USD 788 million in 12 countries, according to a plea bargain signed with the U.S. State Department.</p> <h2>Léo Pinheiro speaks to Operation Car Wash</h2> <p>Now, in 2019, testimony from the former president of another major construction firm involved in Operation Car Wash threatens to cause similar damage in Brazil&#8217;s neighboring countries.</p> <p>Léo Pinheiro—the former head of construction group OAS who was arrested in 2014 and convicted in five corruption cases—submitted testimony in 2018 which has only now been ratified by the Supreme Court.</p> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img loading="lazy" width="952" height="713" src="" alt="oas car wash south american" class="wp-image-24928" srcset=" 952w, 300w, 768w, 610w" sizes="(max-width: 952px) 100vw, 952px" /><figcaption>Tarija–Potosí highway was allegedly used to siphon money away</figcaption></figure> <p>His state&#8217;s evidence includes mentions of at least three heads of state from around South America: <a href="">Bolivia&#8217;s Evo Morales</a>, Chile&#8217;s former president Michelle Bachelet, and Ollanta Humala.&nbsp;</p> <p>Some details of his testimony were leaked to the press, while others were detailed in the instant message dump of Telegram communications between Operation Car Wash prosecutors, reported by <em>The Intercept.</em></p> <h2>The Tarija–Potosí highway</h2> <p>Mr. Pinheiro recounts the story of how OAS came to take over the works of a highway project between the Bolivian town of Tarija and the mountain city of Potosí. The undertaking was previously being overseen by fellow Brazilian firm Queiroz Galvão, but was riddled with problems. Mr. Pinheiro told the Federal Police that former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva asked his company to take over the project, hearing a promise that Evo Morales &#8220;would be willing to financially compensate&#8221; OAS with further public works contracts.</p> <p>The former OAS head then claimed that Lula and Mr. Morales came to an agreement to lift sanctions imposed on Queiroz Galvão and hand the reins over to OAS, along with another project to build a roadway close to Cochabamba. The Bolivian government denies these allegations, demanding proof.</p> <h2>The Chacao Channel bridge</h2> <p>In Chile, similar allegations were made with regard to the Chacao Channel bridge project, which intends to link the island of Chiloé to the mainland, set to be the largest suspension bridge in South America.</p> <p>Léo Pinheiro claims that former president Lula asked him for a contribution to the electoral campaign of Michelle Bachelet in 2013, after OAS expressed fears that it would lose the Chacao Channel bridge project if Ms. Bachelet were to take power. Mr. Pinheiro alleges that CLP 101.6 million were paid in 2014, by way of shell corporation Martelli y Associados.</p> <p>Once again, Ms. Bachelet, Lula, and ex-Chilean president Ricardo Lagos deny these accusations.</p> <h2>Political campaigns in Peru</h2> <p>After the country&#8217;s politics was rocked by revelations of corruption involving Odebrecht, the new scandals involving OAS promise to make the pit of investigations and convictions even deeper.</p> <p>Léo Pinheiro alleges that Ollanta Humala hired Brazilian marketing professional Valdemir Garreta for his election campaign in 2011, and that OAS foot the bill—to the order of BRL 859,000. Regarding this particular accusation, Mr. Garreta is on board with the OAS executive&#8217;s claims, telling Peruvian prosecutors that he did, in fact, receive money from the firm to run Mr. Humala&#8217;s (victorious) election campaign.

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