BRASILIA, Aug 16 (Reuters) - Prosecutors investigating Brazil’s biggest-ever corruption scandal will probe last year’s sale of the Argentine subsidiary of Petrobras, Brazil’s state oil company, a lawyer representing its minority shareholders on Wednesday.
Petrobras, formally known as Petroleo Brasileiro SA , sold its 67.2 percent stake in Petrobras Argentina SA for $892 million to Pampa Energia SA, Argentina’s largest power company.
Lawyer Felipe Caldeira, representing the Petrobras shareholders, told Reuters he spoke on Tuesday to prosecutors on a task force in Curitiba leading the so-called “Car Wash” investigation in Brazil and gave them with information on the sale.
“They are very interested and will investigate this,” said Caldeira, who filed a civil case in a Rio de Janeiro court in May seeking an investigation of the sale he said was below market value and harmful to the interests of minority shareholders.
Federal prosecutors in Curitiba did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Petrobras bought the Argentine unit from energy conglomerate Perez Companc in 2002 for $1 billion, plus $2 billion in debt.
The sale 14 years later for much less has sparked controversy in Brazil and executives from Petrobras and Pampa Energia, as well as lawyer Caldeira, are scheduled to testify at a congressional committee hearing in Brasilia on Wednesday.
Aldemir Bendine, the chief executive officer of Petrobras at the time of the sale, was jailed last month on suspicion he received bribes from construction conglomerate Odebrecht in a political graft scandal that has led to the arrest of dozens of executives and politicians.
Brazil’s federal audit court said it is investigating the sale of Petrobras Argentina at the request of a senator but has not concluded its findings.
In response to Caldeira’s lawsuit, a federal judge in Rio has sent Argentine authorities a request that the chairman of Pampa Energia, Marcos Marcelo Mindlin, testify in the case.
With a majority stake, Pampa SA, Mindlin’s holding company, continued its takeover of Petrobras Argentina in November by acquiring 11.85 percent held by the Argentine state pension system ANSES.
The transaction is being investigated by Argentine judge Claudio Bonadio, who ordered the search and seizure of documents from government offices in May in a case brought by center-left lawmaker Victoria Donda.
“The fund’s shares were sold very cheap, and we want to know why, because thousands of pensioners lost money,” Donda told Reuters in Brasilia, where she traveled to attend Wednesday’s hearing. (Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)