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Glencore, Trafigura, Vitol bribed Petrobras staff: Brazil prosecutors

Reuters  |  RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO 

By and Marcelo Rochabrun

RIO DE JANEIRO/SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Trading giants Vitol, and paid over $30 million in bribes to employees at state-owned company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, prosecutors said on Wednesday, in a graft scheme they believe is ongoing.

Top executives of the international companies had "total and unequivocal" knowledge of the graft scheme, which began in 2009, investigators said at a conference in Brazil, adding that the details being made public were just the "tip of the iceberg."

employees offered the trading companies lower prices for and its derivatives as well as storage tanks in more than 160 separate operations then shared in the savings, authorities said.

"Evidence shows that there was a scheme in which the companies investigated paid bribes to employees to obtain ... more advantageous prices and sign contracts more frequently," prosecutors said in a statement.

They said the bribes moved through in the United States, the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Uruguay, among other nations, raising questions of whether those countries would open investigations.

alerted Interpol, seeking the arrest of a employee in

Petrobras said it was cooperating with authorities and viewed itself as a victim of corruption.

"... We are the most interested party in seeing all the facts come to light," the company said in a statement. "We will continue adopting all necessary measures to obtain a proper reparation for damages caused (to Petrobras)."

Spokesmen for the Glencore, and Petrobras declined to comment. A said the firm "has a zero tolerance policy in respect of bribery and corruption and will always cooperate fully with the relevant authorities in any jurisdiction in which it operates."

The latest revelations are the strongest international links yet made public to the sweeping "Car Wash" probe, which is centered on political graft at Petrobras, as the Brazilian firm is known. U.S. prosecutors say the investigation has uncovered the biggest-ever corruption scheme.

Over 130 top and politicians have been convicted in connection with the case in Brazil, including former Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who is serving a 12-year prison sentence.

'STRENGTHEN CREDIBILITY'

The latest developments hit just as the was hoping to turn the page on corruption.

In September, Petrobras settled corruption charges for $850 million with Brazilian and U.S. authorities.

Separately on Wednesday it launched a new business plan saying its goal is to "strengthen the credibility, pride and reputation of Petrobras."

The latest Car Wash chapter could undermine Petrobras' deals and ability to embark on privatization plans that Brazil's far-right President-elect Jair Bolsonaro's economy team wants to carry out.

Petrobras said a month ago it is selling its 50 percent stake in a Nigerian to a consortium led by for $1.53 billion as the company reduces debt.

The deal has not yet closed and it was unclear how Wednesday's action may affect it.

It was not the first time prosecutors have zeroed in on Trafigura, a commodities trading giant based in

In March this year, a former top executive, Mariano Marcondes Ferraz, was found guilty of bribing a Petrobras on behalf of his own company, He was sentenced to over 10 years in jail.

Swiss prosecutors also have an ongoing related investigation, announced one month after Ferraz's arrest in in 2016. The Office of the in had opened a criminal probe into an employee of Trafigura as part of a wider investigation into suspected corruption at Petrobras. It did not name the employee.

(Reporting by in Rio de Janeiro and in Sao Paulo; Additional reporting by in London, and and Tatiana Bautzer in Sao Paulo; Editing by Daniel Flynn, Brad Brooks, and Jonathan Oatis)

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, December 05 2018. 21:21 IST
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