Brazil prosecutors sue Petrobras suppliers for $1.6 billion on fraud

viernes 20 de febrero de 2015 12:28 GYT

RIO DE JANEIRO Feb 20 (Reuters) - Brazilian prosecutors filed lawsuits against six construction and engineering groups, seeking 4.47 billion reais ($1.55 billion) in damages in connection with a contract-fixing, bribery and political kickback scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras.

The five lawsuits, filed in federal court in Brasilia, are against Camargo Corrêa SA, the Brazil unit of Japan's Sanko Co ; Mendes Junior Engenharia SA ; OAS SA ; Galvão Engenharia SA; and Engevix Engenharia SA, the federal public prosecutor's office, known as MPF, said in a statement on Friday.

The lawsuits also name 13 of these companies' subsidiaries and 28 of their executives as defendants.

All the companies except Sanko are Brazilian. Camargo Corrêa and Sanko are being sued together, the rest of the construction and engineering groups are being sued individually.

The lawsuits seek to recover 319 million reais in lost state funds and 3.19 billion reais in damages and to impose a civil penalty of 959 million reais.

The cases stem from what criminal prosecutors say was a scheme where the construction companies and their executives conspired with Petrobras executives to overcharge for contracts. Much of the excess was then kicked back to Petrobras executives, politicians and political parties as bribes and illegal campaign contributions.

During criminal investigations, prosecutors showed that 16 construction and engineering companies had formed a cartel "allowing them to defraud the public auction process related to some of the projects tendered by Petrobras between 2004 and 2014, increasing the profits of the companies by hundreds of millions of reais," the MPF said.

The lawsuits also seek to ban the companies from receiving government business and prohibit them from obtaining tax benefits or loans from state-run or state-owned banks.

Engevix said it would take the necessary steps to deal with the situation as soon as its lawyers are notified of the case.

The other companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

($1 = 2.8773 Brazilian reais) (Reporting by Jeb Blount; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)