The professor presented his book one on the largest corruption scandals in modern history and explained how was Odebrecht was involved in corruption scandals that intricated politicians around the world. Its bribery ring spread over four continents and involved 12 countries. Durand explains that Odebrecht has been investigated simultaneously in three countries, the USA, Switzerland, and Brazil, where a third of current government ministers are facing investigation. Also, in Brazil, the former CEO of the company, Marcelo Odebrecht started a 19-year jail term last year after being convicted of paying more than US$30m in bribes to officials in Brazil’s state oil company in exchange for contracts and influence.
Durand’s book is based on the study of three grand projects in Peru, the Lima metro, the interoceanic highway and the irrigation project Olmos, that involved bribery schemes involving four presidents and one presidential candidate. The book discusses several mechanisms used by Odebrecht to control governments, ranging from campaign financing and the establishment of close personal relations to politicians, to ensuring kickbacks on overcharged public projects and payment of direct bribes. He also discussed the impact of this kind of practices on the current situation of institutional deterioration in Peru and other Latin American countries where the construction conglomerate Odebrecht has operated.
Jemina Garcías-Godos expressed that overall message of Durand’s book is unsettling for anyone with commitments to develop goals and democratic practices in Latin America or elsewhere. The main message of this book is actually the capture of the state by corporate power, she said. She found it unsettling to see demonstrated so clearly that it is not only the politicians who are corrupt and ask for money, but also the private sector offering payments in order to get important projects. Prestigious companies like Odebrecht embrace development, and with a facade of innocence they offer to bring much wanted infrastructure. García-Godos found it specially interesting to see how this is made possible by the coexistence of, on the one side, a formal legal framework that gives the appearance of adherence to the law, and the other side a parallel world of informal rules and norms that everybody who is involved in the business knows how to take advantage,
An active and alive Q&A session took place. Discussions continued in a mingling session and overall, people hope that Odebrecth situation can be avoided in the future.