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Brazil expands Petrobas probe to diesel trades, Companies & Markets News & Top Stories

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RIO DE JANEIRO • Brazilian police expanded a long-running corruption probe at state-controlled oil company Petroleo Brasileiro, or Petrobras, based in part on secret recordings made by a former executive of Swiss trading firm Vitol, according to court documents released on Tuesday.

Police on Tuesday served warrants seeking documents from six people and two companies as part of what is known as the Car Wash probe into bribery to win contracts to buy and resell Petrobras fuel.

Prosecutors allege that at least 12 million reais (S$2.9 million) had been paid between 2005 and 2015 to Petrobras employees working in Houston, London and Singapore.

Tuesday’s probe expands the reach of the investigation from oil and bunker fuel trades at Petrobras’ offices in Houston and Rio de Janeiro to diesel and jet fuel there and in Europe and Asia.

Petrobras said in an e-mailed response it only learnt of Tuesday’s warrants after the police operation was made public. Petrobras said it was a victim of corrupt employees and that it has cooperated with the authorities, providing information that led to the search warrants.

The search warrants were approved based in part on recordings and other information provided by Marcio Dutra Goncalves, a former Vitol executive in Brazil, Judge Gabriela Hardt wrote in authorising the police search warrants.

Dutra, who was Vitol’s Brazil chief executive in 2013, is cooperating with prosecutors in exchange for leniency, the court said. He did not respond to messages seeking comment. Vitol declined to comment on Tuesday. In the past, it has said it has a zero tolerance policy for bribery and corruption.

No new criminal charges were brought on Tuesday.

The investigation into alleged kickbacks spans trades across four continents. Car Wash began in 2014 when a money laundering scheme was discovered at a fuel station in Brazil’s capital, Brasilia, that led to top executives at Petrobras.

Some of the former Petrobras staff and middle men cited in previous phases of the probe targeting trading firms have pleaded guilty and are cooperating with the authorities in exchange for reduced sentences, Reuters has reported.

The transactions being reviewed involved 3.3 billion litres of fuel, prosecutors said in a statement on Tuesday.

REUTERS



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