Greek shipping companies Aegean and Tsakos dragged into Petrobras corruption probe

22 August 2017 00:00

Greek shipping companies Aegean Group and Tsakos Group have been dragged into the Brazilian corruption scandal involving the country's state-controlled oil company, Petróleo Brasileiro, or Petrobras.

The companies are alleged to have paid middlemen, who in turn bribed Petrobras officials to help secure contracts for the shipping companies.

The allegations are made in a recent court filing by the Federal Prosecutors Office from the state of Paraná as part of their investigation into corruption at Petrobras, known as Operation Lava Jato.

Anglo-Swiss mining giant Glencore became has also been accused of paying bribes to Petrobras officials, as the authority's probe continues to expand.

Tsakos and Aegean's interests were represented by father and son Konstantinos and Georgios Kotronakis when dealing with Petrobras.

Konstantinos Kotronakis was also employed as a director by Tsakos's Brazilian Unit, Tsakos Brasil Companhia de Navegacao, and he was also employed as a managing partner at a Brazilian unit of Aegean, Aegean Bunkering (Brazil) Import and Exports of Petroleum and Derivatives.

Georgios Kotronakis, a 28-year-old British National, was, and still is, owner and controller of UK company Seaview Shipping & Trading, which at the time was known as GB Maritime, according to the UK's company registry.

Prosecutors allege that former Petrobras executive Paulo Roberto Costa gave Konstantinos and Georgios Kotronakis inside information to help the Greek shipping companies they represented secure contracts. In return, Costa would receive a commission based on the value of the contracts, and part of the bribes that went to Costa were forwarded to politicians from the Progressive Party, which controlled indications for Petrobras Supply directorate. The Kotronakis duo also received kickbacks from the deals.

So far prosecutors have evidence that at least five contracts, four with Tsakos and one with Aegean, were secured through corruption.

Between May 2009 and April 2013 Tsakos companies agreed to 35 contracts with Petrobras worth some $790 million and between October 2009 and March 2013 Aegean entities participated in four contracts with Petrobras worth about $31 million.

— The evidence —
The corruption allegations are largely based on the testimony of Costa, who was the director of supply at Petrobras at the time.

He gave these confessions as part of a leniency agreement with prosecutors in 2014. In return for his information and evidence, Costa had his 128-year jail sentence suspended and was released from prison.

Another key piece of the evidence was found on a pen-drive that was apprehended from a former Eletronuclear official that contained details about the corrupt scheme.

Prosecutors also obtained evidence of bank transfers to corroborate Costa's plea deal statements, which were obtained with the help of authorities in Switzerland and Luxembourg.

Tsakos Energy Navigation paid $686,963.75 into the accounts of Seaview and GB Maritime. Diralmar Internacional, an authorized agent of the Tsakos group, also paid $1,678,575.47 into the accounts of both companies.

Aegean Petroleum Marine, Aegean Shipping management and Aegean Bunkering Services, paid $2,646,842.34 to Seaview.  

Prosecutors found that a total $966,807.41 had been transferred from GB Maritime and Seaview to a Swiss bank account of "OST Invest" and a Luxemburg account of "BS Consulting," of which Costa and his son-in-law, Humberto Sampaio de Mesquita, were the beneficiaries.  

Prosecutors also found that Konstantinos and Georgios Kotronakis visited Petrobras' headquarters roughly 17 times between November 2010 and January 2014.

— Next steps —

Prosecutors have filed for the arrests of Konstantinos Kotronakis, along with other individuals implicated in the allegations. They didn't request the arrest of his son Georgios.

But Federal Judge Sergio Moro rejected prosecutor's request for an arrest warrant for Konstantinos Kotronakis, instead seizing his passport and ordering him not to leave the country.

Moro rejected the request because Kotronakis was listed as an honorary consul of Greece in Brazil. This means he was not a Greek government employee, but was officially designated to advance Greek interests in the country.

But it appears that Kotronakis has already left the country, as a letter from his lawyer dated Aug. 18 filed with the court shows that Kotronakis signed it in Greece.

The judge, however, did grant search warrants of Aegean and Tsakos' Brazil offices, as well as the company and residential properties of the Kotronakis duo.

The judge also imposed an asset freezing order on Aegean, Tsakos, and Seaview Brazilian assets worth up to 5 million reais. But the country's central bank could only find $981.204,51 (reais) in Tsakos' bank accounts, and $3.346.426,12 (reais) in Aegean's.

Tsakos and Aegean were contacted by MLex but didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

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