Brazil antitrust regulator inks first Petrobras leniency deal
SAO PAULO, March 20 (Reuters) - Brazil's antitrust regulator has secured the cooperation of some engineering firms and executives in the first leniency agreement arising from a bribery scandal at state-run Petrobras, the agency said on Friday.
The firms, Setal Engenharia e Construções and Setal Óleo e Gás (SOG), agreed on Thursday to admit to price-fixing contracts with state-run Petroleo Brasileoro SA (Petrobras) and provide information to investigators, the regulator said in a statement.
In exchange for their collaboration, the companies and executives will have potential fines reduced by between one and two thirds of the usual amount, regulator Cade said. The engineering firms and executives are accused of forming a cartel. Normally, fines for that offense would be up to 20 percent of a company's gross revenue.
The dozens of companies investigated by various agencies in the multibillion-dollar Petrobras scandal have urged Brazil's government to strike a grand bargain to minimize fallout and prevent possible lay-offs and bankruptcies that would further damage Brazil's fragile economy.
SOG Oleo and Gas is also one of 24 companies being investigated by Brazil's Comptroller, the CGU, and would have to negotiate a separate agreement with that agency to get a reduced sentence for corruption.
Federal prosecutors have opposed leniency deals with the CGU on the grounds they could hurt the investigation, but prosecutors said on Friday they supported the Cade deal.
A spokeswoman for prosecutors said they understand that the Cade agreement will bring to light new facts while the CGU agreements could lessen punishments without revealing anything.
Uncovering Brazil's largest-ever corruption scheme, where engineering companies are accused of funneling bribes from state-run oil company Petrobras to enrich themselves, political parties and politicians, has relied heavily on plea bargains.
Prosecutors have signed plea bargains with 12 people to date over the course of the year-long investigation.
The investigation has so far led to 20 indictments of 103 people on racketeering, bribery and money laundering charges, including three former Petrobras senior managers and executives from Brazil's leading construction and engineering firms. (Reporting by Anthony Boadle and Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Grant McCool)
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