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Chemical giant Braskem discloses new corruption investigation

Brazilian petrochemical maker Braskem S.A. disclosed in an SEC filing late Friday that it is investigating alleged “improper payments” related to an ethylene project in Mexico.

Braskem said it hired “an independent American law firm” for the investigation.

The allegations were first published in news reports in Mexico and “included in the testimony presented by the former CEO of Pemex to the Office of the Attorney General of Mexico,” Braskem said.

Braskem and its biggest shareholder, Odebrecht S.A., resolved FCPA offenses in 2016.

As part of the resolution, Braskem pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal information filed in New York charging it with conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA.

The SEC also charged Braskem with creating false books and records to conceal millions of dollars in bribes.

São Paulo-based Braskem reached related settlements with Brazil’s Ministerio Publico Federal and the Office of the Attorney General in Switzerland.

It paid the DOJ and SEC a total of $159.8 million to resolve the FCPA offenses and agreed to retain an independent compliance monitor for three years.

In 2019, the DOJ indicted Braskem’s former CEO for helping amass a giant slush fund and using it to bribe officials and political parties in Brazil.

Jose Carlos Grubisich, a Brazil citizen, was charged in federal court in Brooklyn, New York.

He’s still facing one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA anti-bribery provisions, one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s books and records provisions and falsely certifying financial reports, and one count of conspiracy to commit international money laundering.

Grubisich, 63, was CEO of Braskem from 2002 to 2008. He served on the board of directors from 2010 to 2012, and as a consultant to Odebrecht from 2012 until 2015.

He was arrested at Kennedy Airport in New York in November 2019.

According to the Brooklyn federal court docket, Grubisich and prosecutors “are engaged in discussions regarding a potential resolution” of his case. A conference scheduled for March 5 was adjourned, according to the docket, and the court is standing by to schedule “a pleading or status conference.”

In Friday’s disclosure, first reported by FCPA Tracker, Braskem said the Mexico investigation “is ongoing and, to date, the Company has not been able to estimate the timetable for its conclusion.”

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