Portugal to help investigate Brazil's "Car Wash" scandal

martes 21 de julio de 2015 11:19 GYT

LISBON, July 21 (Reuters) - Portugal's prosecutor general has ordered investigators to look into a request from Brazilian authorities for help with a probe into a scandal involving state-run oil company Petrobras.

A cartel of engineering firms, including Latin America's giant Odebrecht SA, is accused of fixing prices and overcharging Petrobras in a scheme that allegedly helped finance the 2014 re-election campaign of President Dilma Rousseff.

In a statement on Tuesday, the prosecutor general's office said the request for international law enforcement cooperation from Brazil was part of the "Car Wash" scandal, but its content and all subsequent investigations were covered by the secrecy of justice clause. It provided no further details.

The confirmation comes at a time when questionable liaisons between Portuguese and Brazilian businesses and their political connections are increasingly drawing attention from prosecutors in both countries and on a wider scale.

Federal prosecutors in Brazil have also opened an inquiry into whether former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva improperly used his connections overseas to benefit Odebrecht, which is Latin America's largest engineering firm.

On Monday, Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho denied a report in Brazil's daily O Globo that Lula had lobbied him to favour Odebrecht in a privatisation process during a visit to Lisbon in 2013.

"I want everyone to understand very clearly that ex-president Lula da Silva never asked me for any favours for any Brazilian company... That never happened," he told reporters.

Portugal's daily Publico also said on Tuesday that prosecutors were looking into possible involvement of politicians in Brazil and Portugal into a 2010 deal in which Portugal Telecom sold its 50 percent stake in Brazil's Vivo for 7.5 billion euros to take a smaller stake in Oi.

The Prosecutor General's office said there were "ongoing investigations related to Portugal Telecom", but would not elaborate citing the secrecy clause.

Portugal Telecom has already been the target of a probe into dealings by its former top brass with the now bankrupt business empire of the Espirito Santo banking family.

The telecom firm had bought 900 million euros in debt of an Espirito Santo family holding before its bankruptcy. The bad investment undermined Portugal Telecom's tie-up with the Brazilian giant Oi, and PT's operating assets were ultimately sold to France's Altice. (Reporting By Andrei Khalip, editing by Axel Bugge and Angus MacSwan)