A former Keppel commercial representative has accused the company’s executives of authorizing him to pay bribes to Brazilian officials in an effort to win Petrobras contracts.
According to court documents seen by Bloomberg, Zwi Skornicki, a former third-party representative who worked for Keppel in Brazil, has alleged that five top executives authorized bribe payments to public officials.
The payments were interned to help Keppel win contracts with Petrobras and were often worth more than $1 billion, Skornicki told a Brazilian judge.
Skornicki alleged that Keppel Offshore & Marine Ltd. CEO Chow Yew Yuen was among the executives who authorized the bribes.
Keppel Corporation said Wednesday that it “strongly denies the allegations” and said no executives, including Chow, have ever authorized “any payments as bribes.”
The accusations were made in July before judge Sergio Moro who is leading a years long probe into alleged bribery tied to Petrobras contracts, Bloomberg said.
The probe, known as Operation Car Wash, has landed several former Petrobras executives in jail and prompted former Petrobras CEO Maria das Graças Silva Foster to resign last year.
Keppel Corporation said in February it put its relationship with Skornicki on hold “pending determination by the relevant authorities” into allegations that he made illegal payments tied to contracts with either Brazil’s Petrobras or Sete Brasil.
“Keppel reiterates its zero-tolerance stance against any form of illegal activity, including bribery and corruption, involving its employees or associates, and will take all necessary steps to eradicate such conduct if discovered,” Keppel said in February.
Brazilian authorities have alleged that Skornicki paid bribes to João Santana, a top political campaigner and former treasurer of the ruling Workers’ Party, in 2013 and 2014.
Skornicki was arrested in Brazil in February.
The arrest followed allegations made by former Petrobras director Pedro Barusco last June that several shipbuilding companies, including Keppel FELS, paid brides to win contracts with Sete Brasil.
Sete Brasil is a state-owned rig firm established to provide vessels to Petrobras.
Keppel has refuted media reports claiming the company was involved in bribery and has denied any wrongdoing.
News of Skornicki’s arrest came weeks after Keppel took a $160 million writedown in the fourth quarter of 2015 after failing to receive payments from Sete Brasil for over a year.
The Singapore-based company said in its fourth quarter results that it received about $1.3 billion from Sete Brasil for six new rigs before milestone payments stopped.
The company said it had begun slowing down construction work on the Sete rigs after it stopped receiving payments over a year ago.
Keppel halted construction work on all of the projects as of the end of 2015 and said it is waiting for “further clarity on the situation.”