By William Jones, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Brazilian state-controlled oil company Petrobras is under investigation by the country’s federal police after claims that the oil giant accepted US$139 million in bribes from the Dutch company SBM Offshore during contract negotiations for floating oil platforms surfaced.
Petrobras already began its own internal investigation into the matter a month ago but Brazil’s Court of Auditors (TCU) has decided to lead its own inquiry into talks between the Dutch and Brazilian companies.
SMB has been under investigation since last year from officials in the Netherlands, United States and the United Kingdom after a former employee blew the whistle on the payment of US$250 million in bribes between 2005 and 2011 to other companies, US$139 million of that was reportedly paid to executives in Latin America.
According to a report from newspaper Folha de São Paulo the Brazilian company is also under investigation for possible tax evasion allegations during the purchase of an oil refinery in Pasadena, Texas. According to one of the investigators in the case, the Brazilian government paid US$1.1 billion for the plant in the United States, even though the market value of it was apparently around US$42 million.
The Brazilian lower house of Congress passed a vote earlier this week to set up a committee to investigate the allegations regarding bribes to Petrobras employees. The motion was passed by a majority of 267 to 28 in the lower house.
The news has emerged at a troubling time for Petrobras with the company constantly working to stave off a growing mountain of debt with massive risk-laden investment plans and the allegations will no doubt act as a further weight around the neck of the company’s stock.
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