US fines Brazil’s oil giant Petrobras $853mn for bribery

US fines Brazil’s oil giant Petrobras $853mn for bribery
The US Justice Department said on Thursday that Brazilian oil company Petrobras has been fined millions of dollars for paying bribes to Brazilian politicians and political parties.

Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski said in a statement that Petrobras executives at “the highest levels,” including board members, orchestrated hundreds of millions in bribes “and then cooked the books to conceal the bribe payments from investors and regulators.”

The payment includes a tentative deal to pay $682.6 million to a Brazil fund, and an additional $170.6 million equally split between the US Justice Department and the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Petrobras said the Justice Department agreed not to prosecute the company in exchange for the payment, three years of compliance reports, and an admission that the scheme amounted to criminal violations of laws that require public companies to maintain accurate books and records.

The deal will mark an end to years of investigations into one of the biggest corruption scandals. It follows the 2016 accord in which Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht agreed to pay billions of dollars to resolve charges in the US, Brazil, and Switzerland for leading a cartel of construction companies that conspired to overcharge Petrobras for construction and service work, receiving bribes in return.

US prosecutors said they have partly viewed Petrobras as a victim of the conduct of its executives and managers who were embezzling the company.

Petrobras has also reached a related $930 million deal with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for misleading investors.

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“Petrobras fraudulently raised billions of dollars from US investors while its senior executives operated a massive, undisclosed bribery and corruption scheme,” said Steven Peikin, Co-Director of the SEC Enforcement Division. “If an international company sells securities in the United States, it must provide truthful information about its business operations.”

The commission said it would credit everything but an $85 million penalty to a settlement Petrobras reached earlier this year with investors who had sued the company over the corruption scheme.

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