BRASILIA, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Brazil’s federal tax authority and prosecutors are investigating 13 foreign and local banks for possible financial crimes intermediating loans to Brazilian engineering group Schahin, newspaper O Estado de S. Paulo reported on Monday.
The banks under investigation include the investment banking unit of Itau Unibanco Holding SA, Itau BBA, Banco Bradesco SA, Banco Santander SA, HSBC Holdings PLC, Deutsche Bank AG, Votorantim and other smaller Brazilian institutions, Estado reported, citing a tax office document.
The authorities are investigating whether the banks could be accused of money laundering for being originators, coordinators or managers of loans to Schahin. Schahin is currently under investigation by Brazilian authorities for potential fraudulent operations that allegedly benefited the ruling Workers’ Party through state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA.
Bradesco’s press office said in an emailed note that the bank follows best corporate governance practices and could not comment on operations or positions of their clients because of bank secrecy rules.
Spokespeople at Brazil’s federal prosecutors’ office and other banks under investigation were not immediately available to comment. Other banks named in the Estado report are Banco Bonsucesso SA, Banco Fibra SA, Banco ABC Brasil SA, Bic Banco, Banco Pine SA , Banco Tricury SA and Banco Rural SA.
The engineering branch of the Grupo Schahin, Schahin Engenharia, was awarded a contract to operate a drill ship for Petrobras in exchange for the bank canceling loan repayments for Jose Carlos Bumlai, a friend of former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Bumlai is under arrest since Nov. 25.
Dozens of executives from Brazil’s top construction and engineering firms have been charged with bribery and money laundering, and about 50 politicians are being investigated for receiving kickbacks in Petrobras’ contracts. (Reporting by Silvio Cascione; Editing by Daniel Flynn/Hugh Lawson)