Brazil’s Odebrecht changes name after years of scandals

SAO PAULO (AFP) – Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht announced on Friday it has changed its name to Novonor, attempting to turn over a new leaf following years of high-profile and damaging corruption scandals all over Latin America.

“We’re not erasing the past. The past cannot be erased,” said Mauricio Odebrecht, who represents the majority shareholder, in a statement.

“After all the changes and course corrections we’ve instituted, now we’re looking at what we want to be: a company inspired by the future. This is our new north.”

Odebrecht was at the centre of the Operation Car Wash corruption scandal that resulted in dozens of top Brazilian businessmen and politicians sent to jail, including Marcelo Odebrecht, the former company president and grandson of the construction giant’s founder.

At the height of its influence before Operation Car Wash was launched six years ago, Odebrecht employed 180,000 people worldwide.

File photo shows a logo of Brazilian construction company Odebrecht at the Olympic and Paralympic Village in Rio de Janeiro. PHOTO: AFP

Now Novonor “is born as the holding company of a business group with 25,000 employees and six companies” working in engineering, construction, urban mobility and roads, oil and gas, real estate, petrochemicals and the naval industry, the statement said.

From its launch in 2014, the Operation Car Wash investigation uncovered a vast network of bribes paid by large construction companies to politicians to obtain major contracts with Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras.

The case sparked political crises in several countries. In Peru, three former presidents are under investigation while a fourth, Alan Garcia, committed suicide in 2019 when police arrived at his home to take him into custody.

Odebrecht was ordered to pay many fines including one worth USD2.6 billion to the  governments of the United States, Brazil and Switzerland.