Leading global oil traders Vitol [VITOLV.UL], Trafigura [TRAFGF.UL] and Glencore paid more than $30 million in bribes to employees at state-owned Brazilian company Petrobras in a scheme that may still be going on, prosecutors said on Wednesday. Top executives of the international companies had "total and unequivocal" knowledge of the graft involving Petroleo Brasileiro SA, known as Petrobras, investigators said at a news conference. The bribes took place between 2011 and 2014, investigators said.
The details being made public were just the "tip of the iceberg" investigators said, and the latest revelations were the strongest international links yet announced to the sweeping "Car Wash" probe centered on political corruption at Petrobras. Petrobras employees offered the trading companies lower prices for oil and its derivatives as well as storage tanks in more than 160 separate operations then shared in the savings, authorities said.
Those involved, emails obtained by Brazil's federal police showed, would use nicknames such as Tiger, Flipper or Mr M and discuss below-market prices for oil or tanks, while invoicing their companies at the market rate. The differences could range from 10 cents to a dollar per barrel and the term of art for the bribes was "delta."
Prosecutors also obtained spreadsheets mentioning oil trades involving Vitol, Glencore and Trafigura that they said represent the bribes paid.