Brazilian authorities have widened their Operation Car Wash graft probe to include U.S. asphalt maker Sargeant Marine, six Greek shipping companies and a former Brazilian congressman.
Former lawmaker Candido Vaccarezza was arrested over allegations he received bribes of nearly $500,000 from Florida-based Sargeant Marine in exchange for helping the company win asphalt supply contracts from state-controlled oil company Petrobras.
From 2010 to 2013, Florida-based Sargeant Marine signed 12 contracts worth about $180 million with Petrobras because of Vaccarezza's influence, prosecutors said.
Authorities also issued arrest warrants for Paul Roberto Costa, Petrobras’ director of supplies, two other ex-managers and an unnamed representative of Sargeant Marine based in Brazil.
Responding to news of the widening Brazilian Car Wash graft probe, Harry Sargeant III issued the following statement regarding his non-involvement and non-ownership of Sargeant Marine:
“Sargeant Marine, the entity recently ensnared in the Brazilian Car Wash graft probe, was and is a company owned, controlled, and operated by my father and brothers. I have had no ownership of or involvement in the business and affairs of Sargeant Marine including without limitation any conduct associated with the Brazilian transactions forming part of the "Lava Jato" probe.
“While I have no involvement whatsoever in this company, I am prepared to cooperate fully with the Brazilian and other authorities in connection with their ongoing investigation and prosecution of corrupt activities by Sargeant Marine and any others.”
Sargeant is a billionaire diversified energy and shipping magnate from Florida. A former officer and fighter pilot in the United States Marine Corps, Sargeant operates a conglomerate of private global enterprises consisting of aviation companies, oil refineries, oil trading operations, alternative fuels development, and oil and asphalt shipping.
During the Operation Car Wash probe, which has been on-going for over three years, prosecutors have identified hundreds of potential cases where foreign companies could be involved in graft deals with people under investigation.
Last week, prosecutors announced their intention to investigate the $892 million sale of Petrobras’ Argentinian subsidiary, and a few weeks ago, Petrobras CEO Aldemir Bendin was arrested over a claim he received $5.4 million in bribes from the construction company Odebrecht.
Brazilian authorities are also investigating allegations that Greek shipping companies paid bribes to obtain contracts from Petrobras. According to prosecutors, Konstantinos Kotronakis, Greece's honorary consul in Rio de Janeiro, paid bribes and provided insider information to help the shipping companies win more than $500 million worth of contracts from Petrobras from 2009 to 2013. The companies believed to be involved include Olympic Agencies, Perosea Shipping, Tsakos Aegean Dynacom Tankers Management, Galbraiths and Dorian Hellas.