Alstom, GE Accused of Decade-Old Petrobras Bribes in Probe

  • GE denies wrongdoing; Alstom said no longer in energy business
  • Accusations from plea bargain made public in court documents

One of the highest-ranking former executives at Petrobras has told investigators that Alstom SA and General Electric Co. paid bribes to win contracts more than a decade ago, underscoring how Brazil’s biggest corruption scandal continues to expand.

Nestor Cervero, who headed the Brazilian state-controlled oil producer’s international division, told investigators that he received $700,000 in bribes from Alstom in an account in Switzerland in exchange for choosing the company to supply four turbines for power plant projects, according to a testimony released by the Supreme Court. He also testified to prosecutors he had second-hand information that GE also bribed an official to win turbine contracts, according to the court documents.

Alstom said in an e-mailed response that the “energy sector is no longer part of its activities,” without offering further comments. GE said it wasn’t aware of any wrongdoing in the turbine contracts. Alstom fell 2.7 percent on Wednesday to 22.38 euros.

The corruption probe engulfing Petrobras, known as Carwash, started more than two years ago when investigators uncovered a vast pay-to-play scheme where a group of suppliers bribed executives at the oil producer and politicians to win contracts and limit competition. The scandal has led to the arrests of leading Brazilian businessmen and politicians, and contributed to the suspension of President Dilma Rousseff pending her impeachment trial.

Alleged Bribes

Cervero, who was convicted last year of crimes including corruption and money laundering, said he obtained information from an associate that Alstom and GE each paid $10 million in bribes to former senator and former Petrobras executive Delcidio Amaral. GE allegedly paid the bribes to win a contract for 10 turbines, according to Cervero. The alleged bribes took place during former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s term, in the late 1990s, early 2000s, Cervero said, without specifying the years. Cardoso left office in 2002.

‘‘GE is not aware of any irregularity or wrongdoing in the contracts mentioned,’’ and that’s ‘‘not the way GE does business," the company said in an e-mailed response. GE has high compliance standards and is available to cooperate with authorities if needed, the company added.

Amaral’s lawyer, Antonio Basto, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as the oil producer is formally known, declined to comment.

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