Petrobras Witnesses Receive Reduced Sentence in Plea Bargain

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Two key witnesses in the investigation of corruption at Petroleo Brasileiro SA received reduced sentences after cooperating with the police investigation.

Paulo Roberto Costa, former head of refining at Brazil’s state-owned oil company, had his sentence reduced to two years of house arrest after providing details about the kickback scheme that funneled hundreds of millions of dollars from Petrobras contracts to political parties, according to a federal court in Parana state where the case is being heard.

Alberto Youssef, a black-market operator who also agreed to testify in return for a lighter sentence, will serve three years in prison plus additional time under house arrest, depending on sentences for other crimes, according to the decision on Wednesday from federal Judge Sergio Moro.

The decision is a landmark in Brazil’s largest-ever corruption scandal where the use of plea bargains is helping to ensure that investigations are reaching far into the corporate and political world, said Andre Cesar, an independent, Brasilia-based political analyst.

“This shows that corruption leads to prison and in Brazil that’s an important statement,” Cesar said. “The lighter sentence doesn’t mean impunity.”

Police used their testimony to help build a case against more than 20 of Brazil’s largest construction companies for their participation in the cartel that overcharged Petrobras contracts. More than 50 politicians, mostly from parties in President Dilma Rousseff’s ruling coalition, are also being investigated for their role in the kickback scheme, known as Carwash.

There’s evidence to prove there were at least 20 money-laundering operations totaling 18.6 million reais ($6.2 million) from 2009 to 2012. Judge Moro said Costa’s testimony was effective and partially confirmed by documented evidence.

Costa and Youssef can still appeal Moro’s decision. The two still face additional criminal charges related to the Carwash operation, according to the court document.

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