Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Image courtesy of Sebastian Derungs/World Economic Forum.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust filed a lawsuit on Thursday against Brazil’s Petrobras and its auditor, alleging that an ongoing graft scandal at the state owned company caused it to lose millions of dollars.

According to Reuters, the trust filed suit in a Manhattan federal court, claiming that a “pervasive bribery and money laundering scheme” at Petrobras caused it and a second plaintiff, WGI Emerging Markets Fund, to lose tens of millions of dollars.

The suit also claims that the company’s auditors “willfully ignored” wrongdoing, Dow Jones Business News noted.

The Brazilian unit of PricewaterhouseCooper, Petrobras’ auditor, is also named as a defendant.

The trust is seeking an undisclosed amount of damages for investments in Petrobras American depository shares that it said it would not have purchased had it known about the company’s problems, CNN Money said.

According to Dow Jones Business News, tax filings show the trust held more than $27 million in Petrobras shares as of 2013.

The trust manages the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s $41.3 billion endowment.

The foundation itself is not named amongst the plaintiffs.

The trust joins a growing group of investors suing Petrobras for loses stemming from a corruption scandal that has landed several executives in jail.

Brazilian prosecutors allege that Petrobras employees collaborated with other firms to inflate the cost of contracts and skim off the excess funds, a scheme that also allegedly included bribery and money laundering.

The company’s third quarter 2014 results were delayed three times last year after PricewaterhouseCooper refused to sign off on accounts tied to transport chief and politician Sergio Machado.

Machado was accused by former downstream chief Paulo Roberto Costa of using funds skimmed from a Petrobras project to pay for political campaigns.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

Last month, former Petrobras executive Nestor Cerveró was sentenced to 12 years in prison for money laundering and corruption charges tied to a bribe he allegedly paid lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha.

Prosecutors alleged that Cerveró, along with consultant Julio Camargo and lobbyist Fernando Soares, organized bribes from Korea-based shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries in exchange for securing two drillship contracts.

Brazilian prosecutors officially charged Marcelo Odebrecht, CEO of construction firm Odebrecht SA, with corruption, money laundering and criminal conspiracy in late July.

Prosecutors also allege that Brazil-based Odebrecht SA laundered more than 1 billion reais, or about $300 million, from 2006 to 2014.

The scandal has made its way to the upper echelons of Brazilian politics, with former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva now being probed for potential influence peddling after his tenure in office.

Petrobras, already the most indebted energy company in the world, has been reeling from the fall out.

In April, Petrobras said that the graft scandal could be worth as much as $2 billion.

The company booked a $7.15 billion loss for 2014 primarily due to a $14.76 billion impairment charge and a $2.05 billion write down for “improperly capitalized additional spending” tied to an ongoing corruption probe.

Ratings agency Moody’s downgraded Petrobras bonds to a junk rating in February and kept its negative outlook on the company as a result of the scandal.


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