UPDATE 1-Petrobras HQ raided by Brazil police in money-laundering probe

viernes 11 de abril de 2014 15:42 GYT

(Adds Petrobras' confirmation of raid)

By Rodrigo Viga Gaier

RIO DE JANEIRO, April 11 (Reuters) - Brazil's Federal Police raided the headquarters of state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA in Rio de Janeiro on Friday as part of a money-laundering probe, two sources with direct knowledge of the operation told Reuters.

In a statement Friday, the police said they were exercising 23 search and arrest warrants in the cities of Sao Paulo, Campinas, Rio de Janeiro, Macae and Niteroi as part of its "Operação Lava Jato," which is an investigation of money laundering by currency exchange houses.

Petrobras, as the oil company is known, said in a note that Federal Police agents were received by Chief Executive Officer Maria das Graças Foster and that the officers ordered the company to provide documentation relating to "a specific contract." Petrobras did not confirm the motive for the search. Police did not confirm that Petrobras was one of the locations that were raided.

Operação Lava Jato, which is Portuguese for "Operation Car Wash," has already resulted in the arrest of at least one former executive at Petrobras.

The raid on Petrobras comes amid a series of scandals that has raised questions about the company's notoriously high costs, management difficulties and production delays. These problems have helped transform Petrobras from one of the world's most sought-after investments into the world's most indebted and least profitable major oil company.

In 2008, following the discovery of giant offshore oil and gas resources, Petrobras' market value was nearly $300 billion, making it one of the world's six biggest companies. It is now worth less than $90 billion.

Paulo Roberto Costa, the former head of the company's refining and supply unit, was taken into custody on March 20 as part of the probe and is being held at a Federal Police jail in Curitiba in Brazil's southern state of Parana.   Continuación...