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Brazil corruption probe now involves six World Cup stadiums

Maracana wide view Rio
The Maracana in in Rio de Janeiro could be a target of a corruption investigation.

An investigation of Brazil's biggest constructor found new evidence of possible corruption in the building and financing of half of the 2014 World Cup stadiums.

Plea bargain testimonies from Odebrecht executives published on Wednesday by Brazil's top court indicated irregularities in six arenas: The Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, which hosted the final, the new Arena Corinthians in Sao Paulo, and in Brasilia, Recife, Fortaleza, and Manaus.

The testimonies open the door for investigations of corruption, illegal campaign financing, and fraud allegedly involving politicians who planned and organised the tournament.

In the case of the Maracana, a former executive said former Rio Gov. Sergio Cabral asked for bribes linked to contracts to rebuild the stadium and also pushed for another constructor to join the works. The executive didn't detail how much Cabral might have gotten from the deal. The renovation of the historic stadium was supposed to cost about $200 million, but it was delivered at a price of more than $300 million.

Attorneys of the former governor, who is in jail for other corruption cases, denied any wrongdoing.

For the Arena Corinthians, Odebrecht executives said it should have cost about $100 million but ended up at more than $300 million. Former Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht said the bigger price was "absurd," and said the financing was decided at a dinner filled with high-ranking politicians. The rest of the conversation has been kept secret by Brazilian justice officials for further investigation.

Corinthians club said in a statement on Friday that it will investigate any irregularities in the stadium construction.

The Brasilia stadium, which was the most expensive of all 12 for the World Cup, was not built by Odebrecht, but company executives said the final price of more than $400 million had to do with bribes to politicians paid by constructor Andrade Gutierrez. The Odebrecht executives also said they formed a cartel with Andrade Gutierrez so the latter would have the Brasilia job.

Other World Cup arenas have also been linked to corruption investigations, including those in Porto Alegre and Salvador.

Brazil's Supreme Court opened investigations into about 100 politicians this week, based on hundreds of hours of testimonies by past and present executives at Odebrecht.

The testimonies describe how bribery and kickbacks were considered part of doing business.

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