In dramatic testimony, former executives of the disgraced multinational Odebrecht revealed to Peruvian prosecutors yesterday code names the company used to mask secret payments to high-ranking local officials.
The recipients of the payments included the former prime minister César Villanueva, the former mayor of the capital city of Lima, Susana Villarán, and the current vice-governor of the province of Callao, Constantino Galarza.
This is the first time that Villanueva has been linked to the scandal. Villarán is currently in jail on charges of accepting illegal campaign payments from Odebrecht, and Galarza’s dealings with Odebrecht were revealed in June by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.
The testimonies by Jorge Barata and Ricardo Boleira, both former directors for Odebrecht in Peru, came after ICIJ’s Bribery Division investigation revealed hundreds of millions of dollars in secret payments by a unit of the company that existed primarily to manage bribes.
Revelations by ICIJ and partners in 10 countries included records of hundreds of payments linked to infrastructure projects across Latin America. Given the illegal nature of many of them, they referred to politicians, officials and other recipients by colorful monikers such as Bambi, Stalin and Darth Vader.
Days after the Bribery Division’s publication, Peruvian prosecutors indicated that they would interrogate key Peruvian Odebrecht executives again and ask them to decipher the codenames linked to projects in Peru, reported ICIJ’s partners at Convoca.
Prosecutors heard yesterday that Galarza, the vice-governor of the coastal region of Callao, was secretly identified as “Gaza.”
ICIJ found that a company owned by Galarza had received two payments in 2014 totaling $240,000, linked to the massive Gasoducto Sur gas pipeline in southern Peru.
Galarza – aka Gaza – also gained notoriety this March when a television news program played an unrelated audio recording in which Galarza appeared to plot the assassination of a political rival.
“Gaza” is the same codename that appears as the “recipient” of the payments to Galarza’s company. Barata testified that Galarza had offered to provide intelligence about threats of terrorist attacks along the route of the pipeline in southern Peru.
Odebrecht’s executives also revealed that former Lima mayor was nicknamed “Careca,” the Portuguese word for bald (Villarán has a full head of hair). Former prime minister Villanueva was called “Curriculum Vita.” In Peru, the prime minister is not the head of state but is appointed by the president to head the cabinet-like body known as the Council of Ministers.
Other code names that were cracked in yesterday’s testimony include those of a former municipal official in Lima, Martín Bustamante Castro, who was called “Bigode,” or Moustache, and the lawyer and former politician Horacio Cánepa, who was known as “Almofadinha,” or Little Pillow.
ICIJ’s partners at Convoca are tracking Odebrecht’s hidden cash in an interactive called Pagos Secretos, or Secret Payments, which is updated as new codenames are cracked and the identities of their recipients are revealed.