GLOBAL ECONOMY

Brazil's Petrobras informed of kickback scheme in 2009, newspaper reports

A Bolivian employee of Brazil's oil giant Petrobras subsidiary Petrobras Bolivia  shows a natural gas facility at the Gualberto Villarroel , 8m (about 5 miles) south of Cochabamba, Bolivia, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2006. The nationalization of Bolivia's hydrocarbons industry took two steps forward this week as the government opened long-awaited contract negotiations with foreign petroleum companies while collecting the first round of higher royalties it now charges those firms. Representatives of the French company Total S.A. sat down with Hydrocarbons Ministry officials Tuesday in La Paz to begin drawing up a new contract ceding a majority share of their Bolivian operations to the government, as required by President Evo Morales' May 1 nationalization decree. Contract negotiations with other international firms _ including Brazil's state-owned Petrobras and the Spanish-Argentine firm Repsol YPF _ are expected to follow.(AP Photo/Nano Cartagena)

A Bolivian employee of Brazil's oil giant Petrobras subsidiary Petrobras Bolivia shows a natural gas facility at the Gualberto Villarroel , 8m (about 5 miles) south of Cochabamba, Bolivia, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2006. The nationalization of Bolivia's hydrocarbons industry took two steps forward this week as the government opened long-awaited contract negotiations with foreign petroleum companies while collecting the first round of higher royalties it now charges those firms. Representatives of the French company Total S.A. sat down with Hydrocarbons Ministry officials Tuesday in La Paz to begin drawing up a new contract ceding a majority share of their Bolivian operations to the government, as required by President Evo Morales' May 1 nationalization decree. Contract negotiations with other international firms _ including Brazil's state-owned Petrobras and the Spanish-Argentine firm Repsol YPF _ are expected to follow.(AP Photo/Nano Cartagena)  ((AP Photo/Nano Cartagena))

Brazil's state-run oil company was warned five years ago of the kickback scheme that has plunged Petrobras into one of the country's worst corruption scandals, a newspaper reported Friday.

The paper, Valor Economico, said it obtained documents showing that in 2009, former Petrobras executive Venina Velosa da Fonseca warned chief executive Maria das Graças Foster about inflated contracts on refinery projects.

In response, Petrobras issued a statement saying it began internal investigations into the information in 2008. It said Fonseca was fired in 2009 for violating the company's procurement procedures.

Authorities allege top officials from Petrobras operated a kickback scheme on contracts worth upward of $4 billion, with money eventually fed back to the governing Workers' Party and other top parties for political campaigns.

Executives from some of the nation's biggest construction firms are among 35 people charged on Thursday with involvement in the scheme and Judge Sergio Moro ruled on Friday said that nine of them must face trial. It was unclear when and if he would accept the charges filed against the remaining 26.

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Charges include corruption, money laundering and the formation of a criminal organization.

Many of the allegations center on what police have heard from Alberto Youssef, a convicted black-market money dealer who was among those charged Thursday. He has said that he laundered hundreds of millions in the scheme and that the governing party benefited from it.

Youssef, who is talking to police in exchange for less jail time, claims recently re-elected President Dilma Rousseff and former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva knew about the kickbacks. He has offered no proof, and both leaders deny the allegation.

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