Brazil agency opens probe of SBM-Petrobras oil-ship contracts

viernes 4 de abril de 2014 17:22 GYT

RIO DE JANEIRO, April 4 (Reuters) - Brazil's controller-general has opened an investigation into the lease by SBM Offshore NV, a Dutch company, of oil production ships to state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA , widening a probe into allegations of bribery by SBM.

In February, allegations from a former SBM employee came to light suggesting SBM paid $250 million in bribes, with $139 million of that paid in Brazil.

The investigation by the controller-general, known as the CGU, follows an investigation at Petrobras. The internal Petrobras probe found no evidence of wrongdoing.

The CGU announced its probe Wednesday in a statement in the Diario Official, Brazil's publication of official news. The announcement made no mention of Petrobras or SBM.

"The Petrobras investigation was well done, especially if we consider the restriction of having to complete their work in 45 days," Jorge Hage, head of the CGU, said in a statement. "The final Petrobras report will be useful as a starting point for our work."

Petrobras also faced limits on how and where it could investigate because its legal powers are limited, he said.

The CGU investigation, which will take 30 days, adds to growing pressure on Brazil's government over alleged mismanagement and bribery at Petrobras, where Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was chairwoman of the board of directors from 2003 to 2010.

Opposition politicians have seized on alleged cost overruns at Brazilian and U.S. refineries and on the SBM case to attack Rousseff's record as an administrator ahead of the October general elections.

Lawmakers have obtained signatures from a sufficent number of legislators to install a formal probe. They have also set up a panel to accompany investigations of the SBM-Petrobras case.   Continuación...