(Recasts with official confirmation by prosecutor’s office, adds prosecutor’s statement, background on cases)
By Nicolás Misculin
BUENOS AIRES, Aug 3 (Reuters) - Argentina’s main prosecutor’s office said on Friday it has reached a deal with its Brazilian counterpart to use testimony reached through plea bargains in the “Operation Car Wash” corruption case in local graft investigations.
The move may quicken prosecutions related to the sprawling investigation into kickbacks offered by companies for government projects. The probe and related investigations have implicated hundreds of government officials and corporate executives across Latin America.
Brazilian engineering firm Odebrecht SA is at the center of a global investigation involving numerous other firms that paid billions of dollars in bribes to win contracts. Last year, Argentina banned Odebrecht from bidding on public works contracts for 12 months, and the company sold its stake in a subway project in capital Buenos Aires.
Until now, prosecutors’ efforts had been hampered by uncertainty over whether Argentina’s judicial system would respect the terms of plea deals reached in Brazil.
“This type of agreement is a requisite to access evidence available in Brazil that has limitations on how it can be used,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement. The evidence “cannot be used against those covered by leniency agreements nor in cases other than those in which the information was shared.”
Last November, Argentina’s Congress passed a law allowing companies to sign leniency deals. Argentine prosecutors had previously complained about the lack of a legal mechanism for such deals, which were seen as key to encouraging cooperation with the Brazilian probe.
Reporting by Nicolas Misculin Writing by Hugh Bronstein and Luc Cohen Editing by James Dalgleish and Matthew Lewis