friday, 27 january of 2017

U.S. judge approves Braskem $633 mln fine in record corruption case

A U.S. judge on Thursday sentenced the Brazilian petrochemical company Braskem SA to pay a $632.6 million criminal fine, in connection with a corruption case that led to the largest foreign bribery settlement in U.S. history.

Braskem had agreed to the penalty when it pleaded guilty on Dec. 21 to a conspiracy charge over a scheme that also involved Brazil's Odebrecht SA, Latin America's largest construction company.

The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie in Brooklyn, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Robert Capers in Brooklyn said.

Odebrecht and Braskem agreed to pay at least $3.5 billion to settle charges by U.S., Brazilian and Swiss regulators that they schemed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to government officials around the world.

These included alleged payments to Brazil's state-owned oil company Petrobras unearthed in a nearly three-year probe known as "Operation Car Wash" into political kickbacks in that country.

The Petrobras scandal also contributed to the ouster last August of Dilma Rousseff as Brazil's president.

Petrobras and Odebrecht own Braskem.

Odebrecht also entered a guilty plea, and its combined settlement with Braskem is a record for violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a U.S. anti-bribery law.

According to U.S. investigators, Braskem from 2006 to 2014 paid about $250 million into Odebrecht's "secret, off-book bribe payment system" and authorized bribes to Brazilian politicians, Brazilian political parties and a Petrobras official.

Braskem's misconduct led to about $465 million of improper benefits for the company, including new contracts, favorable legislation, and lower taxes, the investigators said.

As part of its settlement, Braskem agreed to employ an independent compliance monitor for three years.

The fine was less than recommended under U.S. sentencing guidelines, reflecting Braskem's cooperation and remedial measures.

Braskem is expected to pay about $957 million overall, including the disgorgement of improper profit and benefits.

Most of the Odebrecht and Braskem payouts are expected to go Brazilian authorities. Odebrecht has yet to be formally sentenced.

(Published by Reuters - January 26, 2017)

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