Petrobras CEO Maria das Graças Silva Foster. Image courtesy of Petrobras.

Brazil’s central bank froze about $18.6 billion in assets belonging to suspected participants in corruption schemes tied to deals made by state owned Petrobras Thursday.

Federal judge Sergio Moro ordered the central bank to freeze up to $7.8 million for each of the three unnamed firms and 14 individuals suspected of bribery, graft and money laundering.

The central bank froze a combined $18.6 million in assets belonging to the three firms and 12 individuals.

Two other suspects had a balance of zero in their accounts.

The move is the latest in a series of law enforcement actions against Petrobras employees and contractors allegedly involved in corruption.

Prosecutors claim that state owned Petrobras systematically overpaid contractors, with employees skimming excess cash off the deals and illegally funneling the money into political campaigns.

The total value of the deviated funds has not been disclosed.

Former downstream chief Paulo Roberto Costa was arrested in April and alleges executives were skimming as much as 3 percent off the price of contracts and giving the money to political organizations.

Costa admitted to taking a $636,000 bribe in connection with the company’s 2006 purchase of a Texas refinery and is currently awaiting trial.

Former engineering director Renato Duque was taken into police custody on Monday along with 17 other employees.

On Thursday an unnamed engineering executive was reportedly fired in connection with an internal corruption probe.

The investigation has also identified about 15 other employees who may have been involved in kickbacks and money laundering schemes.

The company began its internal investigation in late October following a police investigation that has already landed two executives in jail.


Leave a Reply