Brazil prosecutor looks to block corruption leniency deal: report

February 23, 2015

Reuters, 02/21/2015

A Brazilian prosecutor sought to block a possible government leniency deal with construction and engineering companies implicated in a giant bribery and money laundering scheme at state-run oil company Petrobras, according to a document published Saturday on a Brazilian news site.

The letter requests an injunction to stop Brazil’s comptroller general from approving any leniency deals with the companies, on the grounds that such a move could obstruct the police investigation.

Reuters reported on Friday that a number of companies alleged to be involved in the corruption scheme were seeking such deals, which could allow them to continue bidding for state contracts.

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Brazil water shortage: Sao Paulo devastated by its worst drought on record

February 23, 2015

Zachary Davies Boren – The Independent, 02/23/2015

As Brazil continues to battle a historic drought, millions of people in its largest city are about to run out of water.

São Paulo, home to around 20 million, is experiencing its lowest rainfall since 1930, and new water-saving measures have been introduced in an attempt to manage the escalating catastrophe.

Services including schools and hospitals are having to adapt to the country’s newfound water struggles, with The Telegraph reporting that doctors have even been forced to cut short dialyses treatment for kidney patients.

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Whose oil in Brazil?

February 13, 2015

The Economist (print edition), 2/14/2015

THE slogan under which Petrobras, Brazil’s national oil company, was founded in 1953 was o petróleo é nosso (“the oil is ours”). Ours, not the foreigners’, was the implication. That, too, is the sentiment behind the oil policy of the Workers’ Party (PT) governments that have ruled Brazil since 2003. But as Brazilians contemplate the huge corruption scandal now engulfing Petrobras, they might ask themselves just who “ours” refers to.

The PT disliked a successful reform of Petrobras in the 1990s, which stripped it of its monopoly of production and distribution while subjecting it to market discipline and arm’s-length corporate governance. When the company and its new foreign partners made huge deep-sea oil strikes in 2007 Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s president, saw a chance partially to restore Petrobras’s monopoly. New oil laws drawn up by Dilma Rousseff, his chief of staff and successor, gave the company sole operating rights and a minimum 30% stake in the new fields.

Lula and Ms Rousseff saw oil as the spearhead of an industrial policy that involved fostering favoured sectors and presumed national champions. Lula ordered Petrobras to build four new refineries, three in the poor north-east. A new rule required up to 85% of equipment and supplies for the oil industry to be nationally produced. A dozen new shipyards studded the Brazilian coast, fed on cheap government loans. They provided 74,000 new jobs, boasted Ms Rousseff during her campaign last year for a second term. “We created an immense industry.”

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Petrobras Hits Drilling Snag at Brazil’s Biggest-Ever Oil Find

February 12, 2015

Peter Millard and Sabrina Valle – Bloomberg Business, 2/10/2015

Petroleo Brasileiro SA redirected a well at its biggest oil discovery after encountering a pressure zone, underscoring the technical challenges facing the producer’s new management team.

The “drilling phase” of the well at the offshore Libra field hasn’t been halted because of the procedure, the Rio de Janeiro-based state-run company said in an e-mailed response to questions Tuesday. A snag caused the company to halt drilling for more than a week, two people with knowledge of the matter said earlier, asking not to be named because the matter isn’t public. Libra is expected to start commercial output in 2020.

While Petrobras expanded output to a record in December at the so-called pre-salt region that holds Brazil’s largest deposits, it has also run into drilling disruptions in the past. In 2010, it abandoned the first well it started at Libra, citing mechanical issues. In 2011, it briefly halted production at the Sapinhoa field in the same region after a pipe ruptured.

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Ohio attorney general files motion to join suit against Brazil’s Petrobras

February 9, 2015

Will Connors -WSJ, 2/9/2014

The attorney general from Ohio said Monday that his office has filed a motion on behalf of Ohio pensioners to join a lawsuit against Brazilian state-run oil firm Petrobras , alleging that the oil company at the center of a vast corruption scandal violated U.S. federal securities laws.

Petrobras is already facing more than a dozen class-action lawsuits in the U.S., including from the city of Providence, R.I., but the suit from Ohio’s pension fund appears to be the most serious legal threat yet to the company.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said in a statement that the motion has been filed on behalf of the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System, and that his office “has a responsibility to evaluate if companies and their executives are defrauding Ohio pensioners.”

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Petrobras Graft Probe Jolts Brazil’s Ruling Party

February 6, 2015

Paul Kiernan – The Wall Street Journal, 2/5/2015

A corruption investigation at Brazil’s state oil company Petróleo Brasileiro SA shook the country anew on Thursday, as Federal Police questioned a top party official and opposition lawmakers opened a congressional probe into the alleged scheme.

João Vaccari Neto, treasurer of President Dilma Rousseff ’s Workers’ Party, was the first major party official to be questioned in the massive, ongoing investigation into an alleged bribery and kickback scheme involving Petrobras, its contractors and Brazilian politicians.

The sheer scale of the alleged fraud also emerged on Thursday when the judge in charge of the case unsealed charges alleging that Mr. Vaccari received, on behalf of the Workers’ Party, an estimated $150 million to $200 million in kickbacks from some 90 Petrobras contracts between 2003 and 2013.

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Politics in Brazil: Awkward allies

February 6, 2015

The Economist (print edition), 2/7/2015

The new Congress was always going to be awkward for Brazil’s president. Having won re-election last October with the slimmest of majorities, Dilma Rousseff has a weak mandate. She faces power cuts, water shortages and a probable recession. She must curb the growing fiscal deficit to maintain Brazil’s prized investment-grade credit rating.

On top of all this she must contend with a far-reaching corruption scandal at Petrobras, the state-controlled oil giant. Its embattled boss, Maria das Graças Foster, an ally of the president, has resigned along with five other executives.

Ms Rousseff has now been given a first taste of just how obstructive Congress is likely to be. On February 1st, against her wishes, the lower house elected Eduardo Cunha of the Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) to be its Speaker.

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