Former downstream head of Petrobras Paulo Roberto Costa. Image courtesy of Edilson Rodrigues/Agência Senado.

Brazil’s national accounting agency said Tuesday that state owned Petrobras may have overpaid by as much as $1.2 billion in transactions that are being investigated for possible kickbacks.

Brazil’s Federal Audit Court (TCU) found “irregularities” in transactions including Petrobras’ purchase of a Pasadena, Texas refinery in 2006, Brazilian newspaper O Globo said.

“We have demonstrated that there was overbilling (at the) Pasadena (refinery). And we found evidence this happened with other major projects, all of which were worth a total of almost 1.2 billion dollars,” said TCU chief Augusto Nardes.

The company’s purchase of the Pasadena, Texas refinery was one of the main focuses of the investigation.

Petrobras initially paid $360 million for a 50 percent stake in the facility, a figure that later swelled to $1.2 billion for full ownership.

Brazil’s president Dilma Rousseff, who was a board member at the time of the purchase, has stayed out of the scandal.

The investigation is also looking into payments made for construction work on the Abreu and Lima refinery and the Comperj petrochemical complex in Rio de Janeiro.

Details of TCU’s findings have not been released.

Brazilian officials have been investigating Petrobras for alleged corruption, kickbacks and graft.

Last week, PriceWaterhouseCooper refused to sign off on the company’s third quarter earnings after declining to approve results for any accounts tied to transport chief and politician Sergio Machado.

Machado took a a month long leave of absence earlier this month.

Former downstream head Paulo Roberto Costa has alleged that funds from state owned Petrobras were used for illegal political campaign financing, including campaigns run by Machado.

Machado, a member of Brazil’s Democratic Movement Party, has denied Costa’s allegations.

Costa is currently awaiting trial for allegedly participating in a $3.96 billion money laundering scheme.

In September, Costa admitted to taking a $636,000 bribe in connection with the state-owned company’s 2006 purchase of a Texas refinery.

Public prosecutors have already recommended that Machado be removed from his position at Transpetro, Petrobras’ transportation arm.


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