Brazilian prosecutors on Thursday formally charged executives of six of the country’s largest engineering firms with forming a cartel to funnel kickbacks from state-run oil company Petrobras to the ruling political party and its allies.
They were also indicted on charges of corruption and money laundering in a landmark case that has shaken Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s government and might further weaken a stagnant economy.
The corruption scandal, in which billions of dollars were allegedly paid by the companies in bribes to win Petrobras contracts, threatens to paralyze infrastructure projects, because implicated firms could be banned from government contract bids.
Prosecutors charged 36 people, 22 of them from engineering firms OAS, Camargo Correa, UTC Engenharia, Galvao Engenharia, Mendes Junior and Engevix, including board members and vice presidents of the companies.
“These people stole the pride of the Brazilian people,” top Brazilian prosecutor Rodrigo Janot said at a news conference.
He vowed the investigation “will go to the very end.”
The indictments said the companies formed a “club” to corner billion-dollar contracts with Petrobras and paid 1 to 5 percent in bribes to land them. The funds were paid through false contracts with front companies that in most cases had no employees.
Prosecutors said they are seeking the return of about 1.18 billion reais (US$448 million) from the companies involved in the alleged bribery scheme, and executives of other engineering firms could face charges.
The executives, some of whom have been held for nearly a month at the federal prison in Curitiba, where the scheme was discovered, could face sentences of more than 20 years in prison.
The indictments included Paulo Roberto Costa, a former director at Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the US$52 billion oil company is formally known. Costa named many of those involved in a plea bargain he struck after his arrest in March.
Janot called earlier this week for the replacement of the top management of Petrobras and punishment of everyone involved in the scheme. The company’s shares have lost 18 percent of their value since police raided the contractors’ offices and arrested the executives on Nov. 14.
Lawyers in the case said they expect federal Judge Sergio Moro, a specialist in white-collar crime in the southern state of Parana, to wrap up the case by August next year.
Separately, the comptroller-general in Brasilia is investigating eight firms suspected of participating in the kickback scheme.
Prosecutors in Brasilia are expected to file a case early next year in the Brazilian Supreme Court against politicians who might have benefited from the alleged graft scheme.
Under Brazilian law, the Supreme Court is the only court in the country that can judge elected officials.
The rise of the cryptocurrency dogecoin has reached a new level after the token was used to pay for a lunar satellite launch. SpaceX, Elon Musk’s commercial rocket firm, is to embark on a moon voyage next year carrying a so-called cubesat — a mini-satellite used for space research — from Geometric Energy Corp that has been paid for entirely in dogecoin. The development is the latest twist in the saga over the digital token, which started as a joke in 2013, but is now a dominating Internet meme and sitting on a 21,000 percent rally in the past year. Musk has
CAPACITY EXPANSION: Construction of the site, which is to be the firm’s first mRNA production facility outside of Europe, is to begin this year and likely finish in 2023 COVID-19 vaccine maker BioNTech SE yesterday said it would build a Southeast Asia headquarters and manufacturing site in Singapore to produce hundreds of millions of messenger RNA (mRNA)-based vaccines per year. Construction of the site would start this year, and it could become operational by 2023, the German company said in a statement. “With this planned mRNA production facility, we will increase our overall network capacity, and expand our ability to manufacture and deliver our mRNA vaccines and therapies to people around the world,” BioNTech chief executive Ugur Sahin said. The vaccine produced by BioNTech jointly with Pfizer Inc of
OUTBREAK: About 200 of the airline’s 1,200 pilots are not able to work. Most of them have been quarantined to prevent further infection, but 12 have COVID-19 China Airlines Ltd (CAL,中華航空) yesterday confirmed that it would temporarily reduce its cargo flight services to cope with a pilot shortage, as one-sixth of its pilots have been sidelined by a COVID-19 outbreak. “We are working out a new schedule,” the airline said in a statement after local news media reports on Saturday said that it would be reducing its cargo services from Wednesday, primarily affecting US destinations. CAL declined to give details about its new operating plan, but the reports said that it would be suspending its cargo flights to Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and
The Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) yesterday fined Citibank Taiwan Ltd (花旗台灣) NT$10 million (US$357,194) and DBS Bank Taiwan (星展台灣) NT$6 million for breaches of the nation’s anti-money laundering (AML) regulations. The NT$10 million fine is the highest penalty that it has imposed on a domestic bank, the commission said. Citibank Taiwan failed to set up a sound mechanism for evaluating clients’ risk of money laundering and for detecting suspicious transactions, Banking Bureau Deputy Director-General Huang Kuang-hsi (黃光熙) told a news conference in New Taipei City. The bank based its AML policies on those of its US-based parent company, Citigroup Inc, but the policies