Latin American prosecutors join forces on Odebrecht bribes
BRASILIA - Prosecutors from 10 Latin American countries will form a task force to share evidence in the investigation of bribes paid by Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht on construction projects across the region, a Brazilian prosecutor said on Friday.

Vladimir Aras, head of international cooperation at the Prosecutor General's office said the aim is to speed up the direct exchange of information by avoiding bureaucratic hurdles.

Odebrecht, Latin America's largest engineering group, settled in December with Brazilian, US and Swiss authorities, agreeing with affiliated petrochemical company Braskem SA to a record fine of $3.5 billion. The company admitted to paying bribes to officials in 12 countries, mostly in Latin America, to help secure lucrative contracts.

Aras said prosecutors would be free to question witnesses and defendants in other countries and evidence would be valid across borders.

"Evidence will be exchange rapidly because there will be no intermediaries," Aras told Reuters.

The agreement was signed on Thursday by top prosecutors from Brasil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Panama and one European country, Portugal.
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