State-run oil company Petrobras has purged corrupt managers and put a graft scandal behind it, while hitting record output levels from off-shore deposits, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff said on Thursday. The indictment of former senior executives of Petroleo Brasileiro SA and the investigation of dozens of political allies of Rousseff in the multibillion-dollar kickback scandal has thrown her government into crisis and undermined investor confidence in Brazil.
Rousseff, who has denied knowledge of the scheme that went on while she was chairwoman of Petrobras from 2003 to 2010, said the oil company has cleaned house. “Petrobras is still standing. It has cleaned up what it had to clean up and got rid of those who took advantage of their positions to enrich themselves,” Rousseff said in Rio de Janeiro after opening a low-cost housing project. Rousseff said Petrobras had turned the page on the corruption case and posted record production of 700,000 barrels of oil per day from the subsalt region it is tapping off-shore.
The company, however, has had to cut back investment plans and infrastructure projects have been put on hold because of the blacklisting of dozens of contractors under investigation by prosecutors over bribery allegations. Petrobras also faces lawsuits filed in the United States by shareholders seeking compensation for the loss of asset value. Petrobras said on Thursday it sill has no date for the release of audited results that have been delayed by calculation of the losses caused to the company. Rousseff, who was narrowly re-elected in October, has seen her popularity plummet.
Polls show most Brazilians hold her responsible for the corruption at the country’s largest company. Twenty-nine companies are being investigated for corruption by the comptroller general on civil charges and 97 people have been indicted by prosecutors on criminal charges of racketeering, bribery and money laundering. Prosecutors are investigating 47 politicians, all but one from Rousseff’s governing coalition, over allegations they received graft money siphoned off construction and engineering firm contracts with Petrobras.
On Thursday, the treasurer of Rousseff’s Workers’ Party, João Vaccari, told a congressional commission that all donations from those contractors to the party were legally registered. In an excerpt released on Wednesday of an interview with CNN’s Spanish-language channel, Rousseff said she was “absolutely sure” none of the bribery money was used to fund her election campaign.