UPDATE 1-Brazil agency opens probe of SBM-Petrobras ship leases

viernes 4 de abril de 2014 17:56 GYT

(Adds details of SBM's internal investigation)

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.

SBM said on Wednesday that its own probe found evidence its agents may have bribed officials in Angola and Equatorial Guinea. It found no concrete evidence of bribes paid in Brazil.

The CGU announced its probe Wednesday in a statement in the Diario Official, the Brazilian federal government publication used to make official announcements. 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.   Continuación...