SAO PAULO, March 19 (Reuters) - Engevix Engenharia SA, implicated in a corruption scandal at state-controlled oil firm Petróleo Brasileiro SA, is selling assets to repay 1.5 billion reais ($462 million) in debt as it combats a sharp drop in revenue, Chairman Cristiano Kok told a local newspaper.
In an interview with Folha de S. Paulo published on Thursday, Kok said Engevix has sold an electricity company and put its stake in the airports in Brasilia and Natal on the block. Negotiations over a leniency deal with the government remained stalled, he told the paper.
“If things go according to plan, we’ll shrink but we’ll manage to survive,” Kok told Folha. Reuters was unable to confirm the details of the interview.
Engevix is among more than two dozen companies that prosecutors allege paid bribes to win contracts at Petrobras . Since the ruling Workers’ Party rose to power in 2003, political appointees at Petrobras helped members of the ruling coalition obtain donations and bribes in exchange for building and other services contracts, prosecutors say.
Kok told Folha that claims that engineering firms paid bribes to win Petrobras contracts are false. He acknowledged the company paid about 10 million reais ($3.12 million) in bribes to an illegal money changer, who is alleged to have funneled the money to political parties and then helped Engevix get paid for its contracts at Petrobras.
“Politicians took over Petrobras to suck money up from engineering firms. I call that extortion,” Kok told the paper, without citing any names.
Engevix never donated to political parties or politicians to win contracts at Petrobras, Kok told the newspaper. He also denied that engineering firms deliberately inflated the cost or value of contracts, as claimed by prosecutors and government officials.
Since the Petrobras scandal has erupted, revenue at Engevix has shrunk. Kok told the newspaper that revenue could fall to 1 billion reais this year from 3 billion reais in 2014. ($1 = 3.545 Brazilian reais) (Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)