Petrobras hires law firms to probe Comperj graft claims

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras said Tuesday it has hired two private law firms to probe fresh corruption claims involving contracts to build the Comperj petrochemical complex in Rio de Janeiro.

A report in the Estado de S.Paulo newspaper last week claimed former Rio de Janeiro governor Sérgio Cabral took at least 2.7mn reais (US$800,000) in bribes from constructor Andrade Gutierrez in return for lucrative Comperj contracts.

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In a securities filing, Petrobras said it hired São Paulo-based Trench, Rossi e Watanabe Advogados and Californian firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher to "determine the nature, extent and impact" of the allegations.

Cabral, 53, was last week arrested as part of the federal police's Lava Jato investigation, which has led to jail terms for dozens of company executives and top politicians.

Prosecutors accused Cabral of heading a cartel that embezzled 224mn reais from construction contracts between 2007 and 2014.

See BNamericas' risk overview for the Comperj project here

It is not the first time Comperj has been embroiled in corruption claims by Lava Jato investigators.

Work on the complex's natural gas processing unit was halted in October 2015 after prosecutors alleged that builders Iesa and Queiroz Galvão paid bribes to win a tender as part of the QGIT consortium. QGIT was stripped of the contract in March.

The gas unit forms part of Petrobras' Rota 3 project, which involves the construction of a utilities hub and a pipeline linking pre-salt fields in the Santos basin to the Cabiúnas terminal, also in Rio de Janeiro state.

In July, Petrobras refinery director Jorge Celestino said a new tendering process was underway for the facility. Petrobras is also seeking investors to complete Comperj's 165,000b/d oil refinery.

According to the latest Petrobras estimate, Comperj is slated for completion in 2023, 15 years after the start of construction. Original plans for a second refinery train and lubricants plant at the site have been scrapped.