08 April 2014, News Wires – Brazil’s controller-general has opened an investigation into SBM Offshore leasing of oil production ships to state-run Petrobras, widening a probe into allegations of bribery by the Netherlands-based contractor.
In February, allegations from a former SBM employee came to light suggesting the company paid $250 million in bribes, with $139 million of that paid in Brazil, Reuters reported.
The CGU announced its probe last week in a statement in the Diario Official, Brazil’s publication of official news. The announcement made no mention of Petrobras or SBM.
“The Petrobras investigation was well done, especially if we consider the restriction of having to complete their work in 45 days,” Jorge Hage, head of the CGU, told Reuters. “The final Petrobras report will be useful as a starting point for our work.”
Petrobras also faced limits on how and where it could investigate because its legal powers are limited, he said.
The CGU investigation, which will take 30 days, adds to growing pressure on Brazil’s government over alleged mismanagement and bribery at Petrobras, where Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was chairwoman of the board of directors from 2003 to 2010.
Opposition politicians have seized on alleged cost overruns at Brazilian and US refineries and on the SBM case to attack Rousseff’s record as an administrator ahead of the October general elections.
Lawmakers have obtained signatures from a sufficent number of legislators to install a formal probe. They have also set up a panel to accompany investigations of the SBM-Petrobras case.
The SBM probe began nearly two years ago. At the time, executives of the company – the world’s largest leaser of floating production, storage and offoading vessels – discovered evidence that officials may have paid bribes to representatives of two West African countries and one, then unnamed, country.
Eight of SBM’s 17 FPSOs are in Brazil, where it also has three onshore bases and a shipyard.