Brazilian state company Petrobras fined for corrupt activity

1 Oct 18

Brazilian state-owned energy company Petrobras has agreed to pay the US and Brazil a $853m corruption fine.

The fine ends a long-running corruption investigation into a bribery scheme at the company, which involved millions of dollars in payments that were hidden from investors and regulators.

The company admitted that it had failed to make and keep records and accounts that “accurately and fairly reflected” how and where money was spent, the US Department of Justice said in a statement.

Petrobras falls under American jurisdiction because of it has US investors. It makes regular disclosures to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

It added that the payments were facilitated by executives at the “highest levels” including the firm’s board.

Brazil is to receive 80% of the money.

FBI assistant director Robert Johnson said: “The hefty $853.2m criminal penalty should act as a deterrent to anyone seeking to perpetrate this kind of fraud in the future. 

“This case proves that no company is above the law and that corruption that spans borders will not be tolerated by the United States.”

The payments were uncovered as part of a Brazilian money laundering investigation at a petrol station, which then opened up to uncover corruption involving some of the country’s top politicians and companies.

Petrobras’ former executives channelled payments from companies seeking business with the state to politicians, in some cases receiving bribes themselves, according to the Petrobras settlement official document by the US department.  

It added that the payments were often masked as fictitious costs or consultancy agreements.

The scheme took place between 2004 and 2012 and is estimated at $2bn, of which more than half went to politicians and political parties.

In Petrobras’ official statement on the agreement, it said the court had recognised that the company was a “victim” of the scheme.

The case was investigated by the FBI’s International Corruption Squad in Washington, D.C.

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