Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil Petrobras scandal: Tycoon Marcelo Odebrecht jailed

Marcelo Odebrecht Image copyright AFP
Image caption Odebrecht had been one of Brazil's most influential businessmen

A Brazilian construction tycoon has been jailed for 19 years over a corruption scandal involving the state oil company Petrobras.

Marcelo Odebrecht was convicted of paying more than $30m (£21m) in bribes to Petrobras officials in exchange for contracts and influence.

The Odebrecht group is Latin America's biggest construction conglomerate.

The Petrobras inquiry has led to proceedings against dozens of business executives and ruling party figures.

Last week former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, also from the governing Worker's Party, was detained and questioned for his alleged role in the affair.

Lula, 70, is suspected of receiving about 30m reais ($8m; £5.6m) in speaking fees and donations to his charity, the Lula Institute.

The party has held the Brazilian presidency since 2003, both under Lula and his successor Dilma Rousseff.

Odebrecht was one of Brazil's richest and most powerful businessmen - with close relations to many top politicians, the BBC's Daniel Gallas reports from Sao Paulo.

He was found guilty of money laundering, corruption and taking part in a criminal association.

He had been in prison since last June and stepped down last December from the firm - which was founded by his family.

The firm built major projects across the continent and in Africa and before the scandal had 181,000 employees in 21 countries.

The corruption scandal has cost Petrobras over $16bn, including $2bn that went straight to corrupt executives and firms.

Petrobras' investments alone represent 2% of Brazil's gross national product, and its downturn has harmed a national economy struggling as a result of low commodity prices.

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