UPDATE 3-Brazil prosecutors say bribes paid in Petrobras Texas refinery deal
(Update details on raids, prosecutors goals, background on Pasadena purchase throughout)
By Sergio Spagnuolo
CURITIBA Brazil Nov 16 (Reuters) - Brazilian police and prosecutors investigating corruption at Petroleo Brasileiro SA said on Monday they have evidence that bribes were paid as part of the state-run oil company's $1.2 billion purchase of Pasadena Refining Systems Inc in 2006.
At a news conference announcing a new round of searches, seizures and arrests, federal prosecutor Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima said the bribes related to the U.S. Gulf Coast-based refinery could lead to the cancellation of the purchase.
After Monday's police operation, two were arrested and five brought in for questioning, prosecutors said, the latest twist in a nearly 20-month probe of price-fixing and political kickbacks at the company known as Petrobras.
"This case is important because, who knows, we might be able to annul the sale or recover assets belonging to the Brazilian public," Lima told reporters in Curitiba, Brazil where the investigation is being run.
The prosecutor did not say how a U.S.-based transaction could be canceled, but throughout the corruption prosecution, serious efforts have been made to return illegally diverted funds to the government or Petrobras.
The prosecutor said Petrobras lost $792 million in the purchase of the 100,000-barrel-a-day refinery from Astra Oil, a unit of Belgian-controlled Astra Transcor Energy. He also alleged that Petrobras overpaid for the facility, claiming it was in terrible condition when acquired.
Petrobras paid $360 million for half of Pasadena Refining in 2006, more than eight times what Astra paid for the whole refinery a year earlier. By 2012, Petrobras had sunk $1.18 billion into it including the cost of buying out Astra's remaining half after a legal dispute between both firms. Continuación...