Image courtesy of Petrobras/Flickr.

The Petrobras scandal officially landed in the United States on Monday when Brazilian prosecutors said they have evidence of graft tied to the company’s 2006 purchase of a Texas refinery.

According to Thomson Reuters, Brazilian prosecutor Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima said authorities have evidence that bribes were paid related to the purchase, but he did not disclose details about the evidence.

So far, Brazilian police have arrested two people and brought in another five for questioning as part of a probe into the $1.2 billion refinery deal.

Lima claims that prosecutors have evidence that the original owner of the refinery, Astra Oil, paid $15 million in bribes when Petrobras bought its initial 50 percent stake in the refinery, Thomson Reuters said.

Lima added that the graft could allow officials to cancel the purchase, although the prosecutor did not address how such a cancellation would be undertaken.

“This case is important because, who knows, we might be able to annul the sale or recover assets belonging to the Brazilian public,” Lima told reports in Brazil.

Jailed former Petrobras executive Paulo Roberto Costa admitted last September to taking a $636,000 bribe in connection with the state-owned company’s purchase of the Texas refinery.

Lima told reporters on Monday that Petrobras wound up losing $792 million on the purchase.

Petrobras initially paid $360 million in 2006 for a 50 percent stake in the Pasadena Refinery, or more than eight times the amount Astra paid for the entire facility in 2005, Thomson Reuters said.

The company eventually spent $1.18 billion to buy out Astra’s remaining stake and resolve legal disputes tied to the purchase.

Astra Oil is a unit of Netherlands-based Astra Transcor Energy.

Neither Astra Oil nor Petrobras have commented on the matter.

Petrobras sunk to a $1 billion third quarter net loss attributable to shareholders  on $1.63 billion of operating income, down from an operating income of about $3 billion in the prior year quarter.

The company, already the most indebted oil firm in the world, has also been rocked by a two week long open-ended strike that has dropped production to around 115,000 barrels per day since November 7.


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