INSIGHT: Failure to Stop Petrobras Scandal Could Haunt Brazil's Rousseff



Reuters

RIO DE JANEIRO/BRASILIA, Jan 2 (Reuters) - When federal investigators first identified signs of corruption at Petrobras in 2009, Dilma Rousseff insisted Brazil's state-run oil company had nothing to hide.

"Petrobras has one of the most accurate accounting standards in the world," said Rousseff, who was then chairwoman of its board and is now Brazil's president. "If it wasn't the case, investors would not be seeking out the company as one of the great investment targets."

Today, it's clear her confidence was misplaced.

Petrobras now acknowledges it overpaid on contracts for years.

Prosecutors say engineering firms paid bribes to win Petrobras contracts, systematically overcharged it to the tune of billions of dollars and funneled a cut of the money to corrupt executives, vendors and political parties, including Rousseff's ruling Workers' Party.

A Reuters review of a 2009 federal investigation of Petrobras, and interviews with those who conducted it, indicates Rousseff missed opportunities to stop the graft before it erupted into a crisis so big it could push Brazil's slow-growing economy back into recession next year.

Rousseff says she did not know about the corruption, or participate in it, when she was Petrobras' chairwoman from 2003 to 2010.


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