Venezuela seeks arrest in Odebrecht bribery probe

A sign of the Odebrecht Brazilian construction conglomerate is seen at their headquarters in Lima, Peru, January 24, 2017. REUTERS/Guadalupe Pardo

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s chief state prosecutor said on Thursday an arrest warrant was being sought for someone suspected of taking bribes from Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction conglomerate linked to major corruption schemes across Latin America.

The company signed a $2 billion leniency deal with U.S., Swiss and Brazilian prosecutors in December for its involvement in a vast bribery and political kickback scheme in 12 countries.

According to a plea bargain agreement with U.S. authorities, Odebrecht and representatives paid some $98 million in bribes to government officials and intermediaries in Venezuela between 2006 and 2015 - the highest amount outside Brazil.

“We have sought an arrest warrant for someone presumably linked to the Odebrecht case,” Venezuelan prosecutor Luisa Ortega Díaz said on local radio, without giving any more details of the individual or amounts involved.

Venezuela plans to send an investigator to Brazil and has asked Swiss banking authorities to provide a list of Venezuelans who have received deposits from Odebrecht, she added.

With enquiries and arrests taking place across the region, Venezuela’s opposition had been lambasting President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government for its silence over the scandal.

Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne and Daniel Flynn; Editing by Tom Brown