By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The CEO of the Brazilian operations of SBM Offshore as well as a board member working in the country have agreed to an out-of-court settlement with Brazil’s Ministerio Publico Federal (Public Prosecutor’s Office) after being accused by the government of bribing Petrobras directors to obtain contracts.
The Dutch company’s CEO Bruno Chabas and board member Sietze Hepkema are accused of paying approximately US$42 million to Petrobras executive and directors for contracts with the Brazilian oil giant between 1997 and 2012.
The company has agreed to pay fines of R$500,000 (US$120,000) for the two men so that the process is settled out of court. According to a company press release, the agreement and payment does not imply the company admits to any wrongdoing.
“The Company emphasizes that this settlement does not involve an admission of guilt and remains of the opinion that the accusations are without merit,” says the press release issued on Monday on the company’s international website.
According to company officials “SBM Offshore also believes that accepting the settlement offers a pragmatic opportunity to expeditiously resolve this matter that avoids long and costly legal proceedings and allows the Company’s management team to concentrate on the business.”
Last year, former Petrobras manager, Pedro Barusco told federal investigators looking into the mega-corruption scandal known as Lava Jato (Car Wash) that he started to receive illicit payments from SBM in 1997-1998 when he was manager of the Installation Technology Department at Petrobras.
SBM specializes in the construction of platforms for oil exploration. According to federal prosecutors SBM continued to pay Petrobras directors and managers to obtain confidential information which would help the company win the contracts.