SAO PAULO, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Brazil's antitrust agency Cade on Thursday said it had reached a leniency accord with construction company Andrade Gutierrez Engenharia SA related to allegedly forming a cartel to build a massive hydroelectric dam in the Amazon rainforest.
The leniency deal, signed in September but kept confidential due to investigations, led the office of Cade's superintendant to open a probe into the behavior of Andrade Gutierrez and two other builders, according to a public statement by the agency.
The accord, which could reduce any penalties in return for the company's cooperation, is one of several to come from plea bargains in a corruption investigation that has revealed bribery and price fixing in major public works built by some of Brazil's biggest conglomerates.
Cade said it appeared that Andrade Gutierrez, Comercio Camargo Correa SA and Construtora Norberto Odebrecht SA, along with at least six current and former executives had formed a cartel to bid on construction of the Belo Monte hydropower dam.
The agency said there were indications the builders swapped information from July 2009 until at least July 2011 as they set prices for work on the giant dam project run by a consortium including state power holding company Eletrobras.
At the end of the investigation, Cade's superintendancy will decide whether or not to bring a case against the builders, which would then be heard by Cade's directors. Fines could reach up to 20 percent of revenue for firms and up to 2 billion reais ($585 million) for individuals.
Andrade Gutierrez said in a statement that it was still conducting internal audits to clarify information that could be of interest to courts and regulators.
Odebrecht declined to comment on the investigation.
Camargo Correa said in a statement that it had already signed a leniency deal and it was open to further collaboration with authorities. Cade said Camargo Correa had struck prior accords related to alleged cartel formation in bidding for the Angra 3 nuclear power plant and two major rail lines.
$1 = 3.42 reais Reporting by Brad Haynes and Luciano Costa; Editing by Andrew Hay