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Former Petrobras refining chief investigated for bribery, court considers freeze of CEO assets

Image courtesy of PetrobrasFour months after being arrested by Brazilian police on charges of money laundering, Petrobras’ former refining and fuel chief Paulo Roberto Costa is now being investigated for bribery.

Prosecutors allege that Costa received bribes from construction companies.

The names of the companies being investigated and the size of the alleged bribes have not been disclosed.

Brazilian federal prosecutors were granted 11 search warrants to gather evidence on Costa, Bloomberg said.

State-controlled Petrobras is the subject of a separate Congressional probe into runaway spending at its refineries and for overpaying to acquire a Texas refinery, Bloomberg said.

Costa was arrested in March as part of a money laundering investigation, known as Operation “Car Wash.”

Police said that Costa was involved in $4.52 billion of illegal transactions with an unnamed Brazilian currency broker and unnamed politicians during the purchase of Petrobras’ $1.7 billion Pasadena, Texas refinery.

In March, police also investigated $20 billion in transactions between Petrobras and construction firms involved in the company’s Abreu e Lima Refinery near Recife, Brazil.

The budget for the 230,000-barrel-a-day Abreu e Lima Refinery has quadrupled in less than ten years, Reuters said.

A Brazilian court is considering freezing the assets of Petrobras CEO Maria das Gracas Foster.

Petrobras said that Foster is not currently in danger of losing her job.

The new wave of allegations arrive just as Brazil’s presidential election heats up.

The country’s incumbent president Dilma Roussef defended Petrobras and its managers as victims of political gamesmanship.

Investments in oil production and refining have been major components of Roussef’s re-election campaign.

“I think it is extremely wrong to use the biggest oil company in Latin America and the biggest company in Brazil, always during elections, as a political weapon,” Rousseff said.

Roussef is the former chairwoman of Petrobras and was serving in that role during the Texas refinery purchase.

She has not been named in any investigation.


Nicolas Torres is a staff writer for Petro Global News, where a version of this post first appeared.

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