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Former Petrobras Exec Sentenced for Samsung Drillship Bribe

  • Reuters

FILE - Nestor Cervero, financial director of Petrobras' fuel distribution subsidiary, Dec. 2, 2014

FILE - Nestor Cervero, financial director of Petrobras' fuel distribution subsidiary, Dec. 2, 2014

Brazilian judge sentenced Nestor Cervero, former international chief of state-run oil firm Petrobras, to just over 12 years in prison on Monday for corruption and money laundering related to a bribe allegedly paid to the speaker of Brazil's lower house of Congress.

Cervero and two other defendants are accused of organizing bribes from Korean shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries in exchange for two drillship contracts, the Petrobras 10000, which was leased jointly by Petrobras and Mitsui in 2006, and the Vitoria 10000, hired by Petrobras in 2007.

Consultant Julio Camargo, who said in plea bargain testimony that Speaker Eduardo Cunha asked him for a $5 million bribe, was given a 14-year sentence that was reduced to reporting to police twice monthly and doing community service because he collaborated.

Lobbyist Fernando Soares, accused of funneling bribes to Cunha's Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), was sentenced to just over 16 years in jail.

Cunha, who quit President Dilma Rousseff's ruling coalition last month, accused her government of framing him in the broadening scandal focused on Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras.

He was not a defendant. But the sentences handed down by federal judge Sergio Moro could give federal prosecutors in Brasilia more ammunition to bring charges against Cunha and other politicians thought to have benefited from the price-fixing and political kickback scheme.

Cervero's lawyer, Edson Ribeiro, did not immediately respond to request for comment but had previously tried to move the case away from Judge Moro in the southern city of Curitiba, arguing the Supreme Court should take the case after Cunha's name was mentioned. Only Brazil's high court can legally try sitting lawmakers and ministers.

Moro, who has become the face of an anti-corruption movement, defended his right to try the case. The broader scheme was discovered in his state and related facts are required to remain with the same judge, he wrote.

Cervero's 12 years and three-month sentence was the second he has received from Moro. In May he was sentenced to five years in prison for using a front company to launder money stolen from Petrobras and buy a luxury apartment in Rio de Janeiro. He was fired from Petrobras in 2014 and arrested in January as he stepped off a plane from Europe.

Executives at Samsung Heavy Industries are not being charged and the company has not responded to request for comment about the case.