U.S. authorities have joined Brazil’s investigation into alleged bribery involving Petrobras and some of the world’s largest trading companies, according to the Brazilian law enforcement officer in charge of the probe.
The U.S. Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation have also started working on the investigation, first announced by Brazilian authorities in December, that includes trading companies Trafigura Group, Vitol Group and Glencome Plc, said Filipe Pace, head of the so-called Carwash probe.
Brazilian prosecutors have accused at least seven former employees of Petrobras of taking more than US$ 31 million in bribes from intermediaries linked to the world’s biggest commodity-trading firms in exchange for fuel-oil contracts or better fuel-oil contract terms with the traders. The investigation is an outgrowth of the long-running Carwash bribery scandal in Brazil, which has so far ensnared scores of business leaders, including several Petrobras executives, and politicians including former Lula da Silva and many top officials from his Workers Party.
Brazil is voluntarily sharing information with U.S. authorities, since some of the alleged activity took place in Texas, Pace said. Brazil isn’t asking the U.S. to share details about the focus of its investigation. U.S. involvement in the probe was reported by Reuters and Bloomberg, citing unidentified people familiar.
”We are sharing information and we want whoever is proved to have committed a crime to be prosecuted, in Brazil or in the U.S.,” said Pace.
Ex-Trafigura executive Mariano Marcondes Ferraz is cooperating with Brazilian authorities as he seeks to close a plea bargain deal in Curitiba, Pace said. Luiz Eduardo Loureiro Andrade, who was briefly detained in Florida on Dec. 20, has been accused of working as an intermediary for trading companies to bribe Petrobras officials and is cooperating in the U.S., according to Pace.
Vitol and Glencore have previously said they are cooperating with Brazil’s probe, and Trafigura has directed prior questions to a statement where it denied management had any knowledge of the alleged bribery.
The New York case signals prosecutors there are examining the U.S. arms of Vitol and others implicated by Brazilian officials, as some of those funds moved through U.S. and European banking systems. Bribes paid to Petrobras moved through bank accounts in the United States, Britain, Sweden, Switzerland and Uruguay, Brazilian authorities have said, opening an avenue for U.S. prosecutors to probe for violations of U.S. money laundering laws.
Investigators from New York’s Eastern District office have worked hand-in-hand with Brazilian prosecutors on the Car Wash probe in the past. In late 2016, they jointly negotiated with construction firm Odebrecht that resulted in a US$ 2.6 billion fine and access to company executives who could provide testimony about decades of bribes paid across Latin America.