* Odebrecht admitted paying bribes to local authorities
* Payments made to secure large infrastructure contracts
* Corruption also recorded in Mozambique
By David Lewis and Brad Brooks
NAIROBI/SAO PAULO, March 20 Angola's authorities
have ignored the admission by a Brazilian firm that it paid $50
million in bribes to secure contracts in the country, activists
say, despite demands from watchdogs that it join international
investigations into the corruption.
Brazilian engineering conglomerate Odebrecht
admitted to the illegal payments in Angola as one part of a
guilty plea in December in New York court, in which it confessed
to paying $788 million in bribes, mostly across Latin America.
The company has been at the centre of vast corruption
investigations in its home country and eight other Latin
American states where it has admitted making the illegal
payments. CEO Marcelo Odebrecht was jailed for 19 years in 2016
for paying bribes.
But in Angola, which along with Mozambique is the only
country outside of Latin America on the list of places where it
has admitted paying bribes, "there has been absolute silence,"
said anti-corruption campaigner Rafael Marques de Morais.
Marques de Morais demanded an investigation in Angola in
January after the U.S. court published the plea deal detailing
the company's admissions, but said he was not surprised to
receive no response from the authorities.
"The point is that there is no official interest in fighting
corruption. Or even pretending that there is an interest in
fighting corruption. The Angolan judicial system wants this to
go away because of the involvement of senior officials."
Over the past two decades Angola has experienced some of the
fastest economic growth in the world thanks to an offshore oil
boom. But most of its 21.5 million people remain in abject
poverty, while a small elite have prospered.
Odebrecht grew to become Angola's largest private-sector
employer as it won contracts for projects ranging from
construction and agro-processing to mining, including the 2,000
MW Lauca hydroelectric project on the Kwanza river.
In Angola, it employs 7,300 people directly and a further
3,500 sub-contractors. The company said the bribery case had no
impact on its operations in Angola.
"Odebrecht continues operating normally in the country," a
spokesman in Brazil said.
Angola has no government spokesman. Attempts to obtain
comment from the office of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos
When asked to for comment, Norberto Garcia, head of the UTIP
government agency that handles major private investments in the
country, said he didn't know anything about the issue.
"I barely heard references about it somewhere," he told
Global anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International
describes Angola as one of the most corrupt states on earth,
ranked 164th out of 176 countries on its index of perceived
The watchdog has called upon the 11 countries where
Odebrecht admitted paying bribes -- nine in Latin America plus
Angola and Mozambique -- to work together to establish a joint
investigation into the company's confessed crimes.
In one example cited in the plea agreement filed with a
court in the Eastern District of New York, someone identified
only as "Odebrecht Employee 6" was responsible for the company
paying one Angolan official $8 million to secure an
infrastructure project. The Angolan official was not named.
In another example, a top official in an Angolan state-owned
and state-controlled firm received $1.19 million from Odebrecht
to push business the company's way.
In return, Odebrecht secured some $261.7 million in
"benefits" from the payments, the document said.
The plea agreement also detailed bribery in Mozambique,
another former Portuguese colony in southern Africa, but the
amounts described were far smaller: $900,000 in corrupt payments
made by Odebrecht officials between 2011 and 2014. As in Angola,
the case is little discussed in Mozambique. Government officials
there declined to comment.
Paula Cristina Roque, an Oxford University-based Angola
analyst, said Odebrecht projects in Angola were often secured
without having to go through a public tender process.
"Many Angolans believe the company enjoyed close ties to
President dos Santos," she said.
Odebrecht is seeking plea agreements with various Latin
American governments aggressively investigating its activities
after details of the plea agreement were made public in
December. Brazil's former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is
facing five separate trials related to the investigations.
One accuses him of corruption charges related to Odebrecht
winning Angola contracts and receiving low-interest loans from
Brazil's state development bank to finance the work.
Angola's leader Dos Santos, a Soviet-trained oil engineer,
has been in charge since 1979 but is not running in a
presidential election this year.
However, his family is expected to maintain considerable
influence over politics and the economy. His daughter Isabel was
appointed chairwoman of the state oil firm last year, while his
son Jose Filomeno runs Angola's sovereign wealth fund.
(Additional reporting by Joe Brock in Johannesburg, Herculano
Coroado in Luanda, Manuel Mucari in Maputo and Tatiana Bautzer
in Sao Paulo; Editing by Ed Cropley and Peter Graff)