February 17, 2023

Two indicted in Petrobras bribery scheme

The US Department of Justice has unsealed an indictment against two individuals for their participation in a bribery scheme involving Brazil’s state-owned energy company, Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (“Petrobras”).  The defendants, Glenn Oztemel, formerly a senior oil and gas trader for two Connectictut-based companies, and Eduardo Innecco, a dual Brazilian and Italian citizen who worked as an oil and gas broker and agent for those companies in Brazil, are charged with violations of, and conspiracy to violate, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, along with several counts of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The indictment alleges that between 2010 and 2018, Oztemel, Innecco, and others authorized the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes to foreign officials, including Rodrigo Berkowitz, a Brazilian citizen who worked as a trader for Petrobras’ wholly-owned subsidiary, Petrobras America Inc., located in Houston, Texas – and as such is deemed a foreign official within the meaning of the FCPA – for the purpose of obtaining and retaining business with Petrobras on behalf of the two Connecticut trading companies.  Berkowitz is alleged to have provided the defendants with confidential information that assisted them in securing lucrative business with Petrobras.  According to the indictment, the conspirators attempted to conceal the bribery scheme by labeling the bribe payments as commissions to companies owned by Innecco, paying the bribes in cash and by wire transfer to foreign accounts held by shell companies, and by couching their correspondence about the bribes in coded language, calling bribes “breakfast servings” and the like.

Rodrigo Berkowitz pleaded guilty in February 2019 to a one-count information charging him with conspiracy to commit money laundering.  He has not yet been sentenced.

DOJ press release | Indictment