December 4, 2018 / 9:41 PM / 10 days ago

Odebrecht Peru close to plea bargain to protect it from liquidation -source

LIMA, Dec 4 (Reuters) - Brazilian builder Odebrecht’s Peruvian unit is close to signing a plea bargain with authorities that would protect it from liquidation in exchange for information on officials it says it bribed, a source with knowledge of the talks said.

Odebrecht will admit to paying bribes in connection with at least seven public work projects, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Odebrecht and the office of Peru’s attorney general declined to comment.

Such a deal would take away a last-ditch legal option for creditors seeking to recover overdue payments from Odebrecht’s Peruvian unit and ensure the company can keep operating while it pays them off.

It was unclear how much Odebrecht Peru owes its creditors, which include banks, employees, suppliers and the government.

Odebrecht has been at the center of Latin America’s largest graft scandal since admitting in a 2016 plea deal with U.S., Brazilian and Swiss authorities that it had bribed officials in a dozen countries to secure public works contracts, including $30 million in bribes in Peru.

Former Odebrecht Peru employees involved in the case will not go to prison unless they provide prosecutors with false information, the source said.

After Brazil, Peru has been the country where the fallout from the Odebrecht scandal has been greatest. All four of Peru’s most recent former presidents and the opposition leader are under investigation in connection with payments from Odebrecht. All deny wrongdoing.

Last week, one of the Peruvian prosecutors investigating Odebrecht said authorities were close to a final plea agreement and settlement. (Reporting by Marco Aquino, Writing by Mitra Taj, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

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