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SBM Offshore: DOJ re-opens overseas bribe probe

SBM Offshore confirmed Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Justice has re-opened its investigation into the alleged bribery of government officials in Angola, Brazil, and Equatorial Guinea between 2007 and 2011.

The Netherlands-based company reached a $240 million settlement with Dutch authorities tied to the same allegations.

When SBM announced the Netherlands settlement in November 2014, it said the DOJ had closed its probe and decided not to prosecute the company.

Dutch prosecutors claimed SBM paid sales agents $200 million in commissions between 2007 and 2011, with tens of million of dollars allegedly going to overseas  officials.

SBM Offshore provides floating production systems for the oil and gas industry. Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned energy giant, is one of its biggest customers.

SBM said Wednesday the DOJ has made information requests in connection with the re-opened probe.

The DOJ hasn’t commented.

SBM said it is seeking further clarification about the scope of the DOJ investigation.

“The company remains committed to close-out discussions on this legacy issue which the Company self-reported to the authorities in 2012 and for which it reached a settlement with the Dutch Public Prosecutor in 2014,” SBM said Wednesday.

The company said it has reserved $245 million to cover a “possible settlement” with Brazil authorities. Brazil prosecutors allege that several companies, including SBM Offshore, participated in a price fixing, bribery and kickback scheme tied to Petrobras contracts.

“While discussions are at an advanced stage, timing of a settlement announcement as well as the size of any potential final settlement amount remain to be confirmed,” SBM said.

SBM’s internal investigation determined the company paid $18.8 million in commissions directly or indirectly to officials in Equatorial Guinea and $22.7 million in Angola between 2007 and 2011. The investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing in Brazil.

In late January, SBM Offshore CEO Bruno Chabas and supervisory board member Sietze Hepkema reached an out of court settlement with Brazil authorities tied to the Petrobras probe, with no admissions of guilt.

Chabas and Hepkema agreed to pay fines of about $60,000 each. SBM said it will pay the fines.


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

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