U.S. Authorities Join Brazil’s Probe into Alleged Bribery

U.S. authorities have joined Brazil’s investigation into so-called corruption involving Petrobras and several of the world’s biggest trading firms, according to the Brazilian law enforcement officer in charge of the investigation.

U.S. oil worker turning valve on oil rig.

The U.S Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation have also started working on the investigation. It first announced by Brazilian authorities in December, that includes trading firms Trafigura Group Ltd., Vitol Group and Glencore Plc, said Filipe Pace, head of the alleged Carwash investigation. The Justice Department refused to comment.

Brazilian public prosecutors have indicted at least seven former workers of Petroleo Brasileiro SA of taking over $31 million in bribes. It takes from mediators connected to the world’s largest commodity-trading companies in exchange for fuel-oil contracts or better fuel-oil contract terms with the traders.

The investigation is an outgrowth of the long-running Carwash corruption issue in Brazil, which has until now ensnared scores of business leaders, including some Petrobras administrators, and politicians including former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Brazil is voluntarily sharing information with U.S. authorities, since several of the so-called activity took place in Texas, Pace said. Brazil isn’t asking the U.S. to share particulars about the focus of its investigation. U.S. involvement in the investigation was reported earlier quoting anonymous people familiar.

“We are sharing information and we want whoever is proved to have committed a crime to be prosecuted, in Brazil or in the U.S.,” said Pace.

Ex-Trafigura administrative Mariano Marcondes Ferraz is cooperating with Brazilian authorities as he tries to close an appeal bargain deal in Curitiba, Pace said.

Luiz Eduardo Loureiro Andrade, who was temporarily arrested in Florida on December 20, has been indicted of working as a mediator for trading firms to bribe Petrobras officers.  And he is also cooperating in the U.S., according to Pace. Marcondes and Loureiro couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Vitol and Glencore have previously said they are cooperating with Brazil’s investigation. Also Trafigura has directed prior questions to a declaration where it denied management had any information of the so-called corruption. Glencore refused to comment and the other two trading companies didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment outside of regular office hours.

Among the Petrobras workers named by investigators is 39-year-old fuel oil trader Rodrigo Berkowitz, who worked in the Petrobras office in Houston until December 5.

Berkowitz, who didn’t answer to a phone call looking for comment, is now on an Interpol list of wanted people. Petrobras fired him on the same day the Brazilian police operation was declared.

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