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Swiss AG freezes $400 million in Petrobras bribe probe

Swiss attorney general Michael Lauber. Image courtesy of VolksblattTV/Youtube.The Swiss attorney general issued an order this week to freeze $400 million of assets allegedly tied to a corruption scheme at Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petrobras.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) said Wednesday it has released $120 million of the frozen assets for repatriation after reaching an agreement with two account holders.

“The release of over $120 million reflects Switzerland’s clear intention to take a stand against the misuse of its financial center for criminal purposes and to return funds of criminal origin to their rightful owners,” the OAG said.

The attorney general has opened nine investigations into alleged money laundering tied to Petrobras since April 2014 involving eight Brazilian citizens and one person who has yet to be identified.

The OAG has received about 60 reports flagging “suspicious transactions” from the Money Laundering Reporting Office that may also be connected to corruption at Petrobras.

The OAG said its probe has uncovered over 300 accounts at over 30 Swiss banks that were “apparently used to process the bribery payments under investigation in Brazil.”

The accounts are owned by senior executives at Petrobras and the company’s suppliers, financial intermediaries and Brazilian and other foreign companies that have either directly or indirectly paid bribes, the attorney general said.

“The Brazilian bribery scandal affects Switzerland’s financial center and its anti-money-laundering strategy, with result that the OAG has a close interest in contributing fully to the resolution of the scandal through its own investigations,” the OAG said.

Swiss criminal proceedings into the case are ongoing.

Last week the Financial Times reported that former Petrobras executive Pedro Barusco admitted to using Swiss bank accounts in a bribery scheme at the company.

Barusco told Brazilian officials he opened a number of accounts at different banks including an account at HSBC he shared with his wife.

The Swiss investigation is part of an international probe into alleged graft at Petrobras that has already landed three former executives in jail.

Former Petrobras downstream chief Paulo Roberto Costa was arrested last year for allegedly participating in a $3.96 billion money laundering scheme. He said company officials skimmed as much as 3 percent off Petrobras contracts.

Costa later admitted taking a $636,000 bribe in connection with the company’s 2006 purchase of a Texas refinery.


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

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