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Operation Black Blood: Brazil charges 12 in SBM, Petrobras bribe probe

Brazilian prosecutors charged 12 people Thursday after a new probe into alleged bribery involving SBM Offshore and Petrobras.

Former SBM chief executive officers Anthony Mace and Didier Keller were charged with corruption and racketeering along with former senior vice president Robert Zubiate.

Prosecutors charged former Petrobras executives Pedro Barusco, Renato Duque and Jorge Zelada and former SBM sales agents Julio Faerman and Luis Eduardo Campos Barbosa da Silva with corruption, Reuters said.

Netherlands-based SBM Offshore agreed to pay Dutch authorities $240 million last year to settle allegations that it bribed government officials in Angola, Brazil, and Equatorial Guinea.

The U.S. Department of Justice dropped its FCPA investigation into the company when the Dutch settlement was reached.

In Brazil, the SBM-Petrobras probe is known as “Operation Black Blood.”

Brazilian prosecutors allege that at least $46 million in “undue payments” were made in Switzerland between 1998 and 2012 tied to contracts for floating oil production, storage and offloading ships, Reuters said.

Prosecutors also allege that Duque, who is already in jail for other graft charges, asked for $300 million from SBM sales agents to help fund the ruling Workers’ Party’s 2010 election effort.

Barusco, a former engineering executive at Petrobras, told a Brazilian court earlier this year that several ship building firms paid bribes to win contracts with Sete Brasil, a state-owned rig firm set up to provide vessels to Petrobras.

Barusco admitted using Swiss bank accounts to launder a portion of an estimated $100 million in bribes.

In a statement Thursday, SBM Offshore said it is seeking clarification on the charges and it believes “that [the] allegations are without merit, based on what it [has] heard so far.”

The firm said it is in discussions with Brazil’s Comptroller General’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, and Petrobras on a “potential mutually acceptable settlement and for the disclosure by SBM Offshore of information relevant to the CGU’s investigations.”

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

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