LIMA Jan 9 Peru would withhold any money
Brazil's Odebrecht SA might make by selling its 55 percent stake
in a natural gas pipeline project while prosecutors probe bribes
the company has admitted to distributing in the Andean country,
the government said Monday.
Odebrecht, a family-owned engineering conglomerate at the
center of a massive graft scandal in Latin America, might be
able to collect the earnings once it clears up its corrupt acts,
Finance Minister Alfredo Thorne said.
"If Odebrecht does sell its stake, it wouldn't collect,"
Thorne said in an interview with local TV station Canal N. "That
money would turn into a guarantee in the event there was any
Odebrecht declined to comment.
Odebrecht must exit the $5 billion pipeline project - a
condition of banks that would provide a $4.1 billion loan for
construction - before Jan. 24 when a financing deadline must be
met, Thorne said.
But Odebrecht's acknowledgement last month in a U.S. plea
deal that it had distributed $29 million in bribes to secure
public work projects in Peru has clouded its prospects of
closing a deal.
Last week Odebrecht agreed to give local prosecutors details
on its bribes in Peru, depositing an initial $8.9 million in
public coffers as a gesture of goodwill.
The company, which has had an outsized presence in
construction projects in Peru in the past decade, has turned
into a symbol of high-level corruption for many Peruvians -
fueling calls for its assets to be seized and its contracts
Thorne said the government was also preparing a law to
unlink financing of the pipeline from consumer electricity
Odebrecht and its junior partner Enagas SA won the
pipeline contract in 2014 during the previous government after
their sole competitor was disqualified the day of the auction.
Enagas now controls a 25 percent stake in the project.
Peruvian construction group Grana y Montero ,
whose shares dropped by more than 5 percent on Monday, bought a
20 percent stake in the project from Odebrecht in 2015.
Odebrecht has said it invested at least $1 billion in the
pipeline, which was about a third finished when work on it
ground to a halt last year.
A day before the U.S. plea deal was made public, Odebrecht
had been finalizing a deal to sell its stake to Brookfield Asset
Management Inc, according to Thorne.
(Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Leslie Adler)