December 6, 2020

Guilty plea unsealed in Petrobras money laundering and bribery case

On February 8, 2019, Rodrigo Garcia Berkowitz pleaded guilty in US District Court for the Eastern District of New York to conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with an international bribery scheme.  The guilty plea, waiver of indictment, and criminal information were unsealed on November 30, 2020.

Garcia, a Brazilian citizen, worked as a fuel oil trader for the Brazilian state-owned oil company Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (Petrobras), and as such was deemed to be a foreign official under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  From 2010 to 2014, Garcia was seconded to Petrobras America Inc. in Houston, Texas, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Petrobras.  According to the charging documents, intermediaries working for three oil trading companies corruptly offered and paid bribes to Garcia and other foreign officials between 2010 and 2018, and that, together with co-conspirators, Garcia established shell companies and bank accounts in the US, Switzerland and Uruguay in order to conceal and transfer at least $14.4 million of proceeds from the bribery scheme.  The information charged and Garcia pled guilty to conspiring to engage in monetary transactions involving the proceeds of specified unlawful activities, namely violations of the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA and Brazilian anti-bribery law, in violation of federal money laundering statutes.  

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