SAO PAULO, March 13 (Reuters) - Brazil’s federal police will investigate allegations that officials from state-run oil company Petroleo Brasiliero SA accepted bribes from Dutch ship leaser SBM Offshore NV, newspaper Folha de S.Paulo reported on Thursday.
Petrobras, as the company is known, last month began an internal investigation of the matter after an unidentified former employee at SBM Offshore alleged that Petrobras officials were paid $139 million in bribes through an intermediary over contracts for floating oil platforms.
A press officer at the federal police in Brasilia declined to comment on the Folha report, which comes two days after Brazil’s lower house of Congress voted to set up a special committee to monitor the Petrobras investigation.
A Petrobras spokeswoman said in an email the company would wait until its internal investigation had been concluded to comment on the matter.
SBM Offshore has previously said it has been in contact with the U.S. and Dutch justice departments regarding its own investigation into bribery payments to officials in various countries since 2012.
The Folha article, which did not name any sources, also said police are investigating possible tax evasion in Petrobras’ purchase of a refinery in Pasadena, Texas, something public prosecutors have been looking into since June.
The allegations come at a delicate time for Petrobras, which is tackling high debt levels due in part to the government’s practice of keeping domestic fuel prices low to curb inflation, forcing the company to import gasoline at a loss.