Rousseff Donors Include Builders Cited in Launder Probe

Brazilian construction companies cited in a money-laundering probe are listed among the main contributors to President Dilma Rousseff’s re-election campaign.

OAS SA, Andrade Gutierrez SA and UTC Engenharia SA donated a combined 36 million reais ($15.7 million) to the campaign, according to data released Sept. 6 by electoral tribunal TSE.

The three are mentioned in a Petroleo Brasileiro SA-linked police investigation dubbed Car Wash, according to a document containing prosecutors’ recommendations against former Petrobras executive Paulo Roberto Costa dated April 23.

The donations of OAS, Andrade Gutierrez and UTC -- among the 20 largest, according to the TSE -- are legal and there are no electoral accusations against the contractors. They gave smaller amounts to Rousseff’s rivals in the campaign. Her campaign team said in an e-mailed response yesterday that all contributions comply with Brazilian regulations.

The relationship between building companies and politicians is becoming a topic of discussion ahead of Brazil’s Oct. 5 election, with candidates debating a proposal to ban donations. A number of Brazilian contractors were also cited in a laundering probe with ties to a 2005 cash-for-votes scandal.

In the laundering probe, OAS is alleged to have deposited money in a front company, while Andrade and UTC appear in papers seized from Costa’s office, the prosecutors’ documents show. Contractors’ “responsibility would be determined in a separate investigation,” according to the documents.

Seeking Access

The press departments of OAS and Andrade Gutierrez said in e-mailed responses that their respective campaign contributions are all done legally, without commenting on the Car Wash case. “Donation criteria are based on political representation,” Andrade Gutierrez added. UTC said its campaign donations are legal and that it “rejects any suggestion involving its name in practices that contravene the laws and ethics.”

The presidential candidates are still raising funds.

Closely held OAS employs more than 100,000 people in road, energy, port and stadium projects in home-base Brazil as well as countries including Ecuador and Bolivia, according to its website. An OAS unit is part of group that won a contract to build and operate Sao Paulo’s airport terminal.

Andrade Gutierrez, based in Belo Horizonte, also undertakes infrastructure projects and concessions, while the engineering unit of Sao Paulo-based UTC Participacoes SA operates in energy and petrochemicals industries, among others.

‘Unaware’

According to Veja magazine, Costa gave testimony to federal police that construction companies paid bribes for favorable treatment in contract bidding with the oil company. Veja didn’t name contractors cited by Costa. The police isn’t commenting on the case, an official said by phone.

In a Sept. 8 statement, Petrobras said it’s seeking access to Costa’s testimony about an alleged kickback scheme and had written to companies cited by Brazilian press as allegedly being involved, without identifying them.

“Any irregular acts that may have been committed by a person or group of people, whether or not they are company employees, do not represent the conduct of the Petrobras institution and its workforce,” it wrote at the time.

Costa’s lawyer didn’t respond to an e-mailed request for comment. Rousseff said in a Sept. 8 interview that she was unaware of any criminal activity in Petrobras and that if irregularities had occurred, they are now over.

Rousseff’s campaign received 20 million reais from OAS, 11 million reais from Andrade Gutierrez and 5 million reais from UTC, the electoral tribunal data show.

Other Candidates

The same three companies also donated at least 14 million reais to the campaign of Aecio Neves, who is running third in polls, while the campaign of Marina Silva’s PSB party received a total of 1.4 million reais from Andrade Gutierrez and OAS, the TSE data show. Silva’s campaign didn’t receive money from UTC.

Rousseff was chairwoman of Petrobras from 2003 until 2010 during the presidency of her mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Some of the money allegedly embezzled from Petrobras contracts occurred while Rousseff headed the board.

Other companies whose contracts with Petrobras are under investigation by prosecutors for alleged overpricing also are among campaign donors.

Petrobras shares, headed for a second straight weekly decline, have rallied 59 percent in the past six months with Rousseff’s weakening poll numbers on speculation a new government would ease fuel price caps that have curbed profit.

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