Tenacious Brazilian judge oversees deepening Petrobras probe

jueves 20 de noviembre de 2014 15:09 GYT

By Caroline Stauffer

CURITIBA, Brazil Nov 20 (Reuters) - In a country where big court cases often drag on for a decade or more and abruptly fall apart on technicalities, the man leading a bribery probe at Brazil's state-run oil firm Petrobras is described by allies and even rivals as perfectly suited to the task.

Meticulous, formal and reserved, federal judge Sergio Moro has successfully presided over high-profile money laundering cases for 11 years, and wrote a book on the subject after studying in the United States.

Moro, 42, is now pushing forward a case that has already seen dozens of arrests of major construction and oil executives, shaken Brazil's economy and become the biggest crisis to date for leftist President Dilma Rousseff, who was chairwoman of Petrobras' board from 2003 to 2010.

The probe will deepen further in coming months, prosecutors working on the case told Reuters, and could ultimately involve some of Brazil's banks, other companies, and politicians including some in Rousseff's Workers' Party.

Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as it is formally known, is accused of systematically overpaying for assets and contracts.

Prosecutors say the excess money, which some reports have estimated at about $8 billion, was diverted to political parties. Petrobras has neither confirmed nor denied the allegations but has started an internal investigation.

With the fortunes of a $68 billion company and powerful politicians and executives potentially in the balance, dozens of lawyers are waiting to pounce on Moro if he makes the slightest mistake.

But Moro, a voracious reader who occasionally rides his bicycle to work, has taken courses at Harvard Law School and teaches a criminal law class on Fridays, hasn't given them much to work with.   Continuación...