Brazil To Continue Probe Into Petrobras Equipment Theft

The Brazilian Intelligence Agency, or ABIN, will continue to investigate the theft of highly sensitive equipment from Brazil's state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras, the Estado newswire said Friday.

The equipment stolen from Petrobras contained confidential data on how the company made the recent discovery of its massive Jupiter gas field.

Federal Police had said Thursday that most of the stolen equipment was found and that the case was a common theft by four security guards from a Rio de Janeiro container terminal. The police discarded the possibility of industrial espionage, which it, Petrobras and ABIN had suggested earlier.

However, Gen. Jorge Felix, the chief of the Office for Institutional Security of Brazil's Presidency, Thursday told the leader of a key Congress committee that the case wasn't closed yet. ABIN is subordinate to Felix.

An ABIN press official contacted by Dow Jones Newswires couldn't immediately confirm the information.

Federal Police Chief Valdinho Jacinto Caetano said Thursday that the thieves erased the sensitive data when they found out how important the material was. The federal police chief also said there is no risk that the thieves may have copied and sold the Petrobras data.

Sen. Paulo Duque, who was present at the meeting in Congress with Gen. Felix, is quoted as saying on Estado that the way the matter was handled was "very naive," and that the "thesis of a common theft doesn't convince."

In January, Petrobras said it made a massive natural gas discovery in the pre-salt layer of the Santos Basin off Rio de Janeiro, which it called Jupiter. Gas from the field could possibly turn Brazil into an exporter of natural gas, oil analyst Marc McCarthy from Bear Stearns said.

Portugal's Galp Energia SGPS SA owns a stake in Jupiter.

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