SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The eldest member of Brazil's Odebrecht family is personally spearheading negotiations between executives of his namesake engineering conglomerate and federal prosecutors for a potential plea deal in Brazil's biggest-ever corruption probe, O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper reported on Saturday.
According to Estado, patriarch Emilio Odebrecht is leading a team of executives and lawyers of Odebrecht SA that have set up Brasília's Windsor Plaza hotel as their headquarters for the negotiations. The talks seek to engage as many as 53 Odebrecht executives in cooperation deals with authorities, Estado said.
Representatives for Odebrecht declined to comment on the article.
A Brazilian government official with direct knowledge of the negotiations with Odebrecht acknowledged they were going on, but said, "We're not even close" to a deal. The official did not provide any other details.
A second Brazilian government official confirmed on Saturday to Reuters that negotiations were in progress.
Odebrecht SA [ODBES.UL] is the largest of Brazil's engineering firms accused of colluding to overcharge state-controlled oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA <PETR4.SA> and other state firms for contracts, then using part of that to channel donations and bribes into the former ruling Workers Party and allies.
According to the report, federal prosecutors in charge of the so-called "Operation Car Wash" want Odebrecht SA to pay fines of at least 6 billion reais ($1.9 billion).
Marcelo Bahia Odebrecht, Emilio's son and the group's former chief executive, has been in jail since June last year for his involvement in the scandal. Bahia Odebrecht, who has been already sentenced to more than 19 years in prison for participating in the scheme, is willing to collaborate with the probe, Estado said.
Patriarch Emilio and his lawyers are trying to convince prosecutors to allow other group executives to serve shortened sentences in exchange for cooperation, the paper reported, adding that negotiations could last at least another week.
Analysts have said that testimony by Odebrecht executives could broaden the Car Wash investigation.
According to the Estado article, among the executives involved in negotiations is Alexandrino de Alencar, Odebrecht's former head of institutional relations.
($1 = 3.2220 reais)
(Reporting by Bruno Federowski and Brad Brooks; Editing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Andrea Ricci)