US authorities are investigating whether Petrobras or its employees were paid bribes, adding to the mounting domestic corruption probes facing the Brazilian state-controlled oil company, people familiar with the matter say.
The US Department of Justice has opened a criminal investigation into the company, whose American depository receipts trade in New York, while the Securities and Exchange Commission is pursuing a civil investigation, these people say.
Brazil's biggest company has become the target of investigations by the federal police and prosecutors that is emerging as one of the country's biggest corruption cases in history.Many of the alleged problems occurred when President Dilma Rousseff was head of the company before taking office in 2011.
US authorities are looking into whether Petrobras or its employees, middlemen or contractors, violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, an anti-corruption statute that makes it illegal to bribe foreign officials to win or retain business, these people say.
Spokesmen for the DoJ and SEC declined to comment. Petrobras did not respond to requests for comment.
Prosecutors in Brazilallege that Petrobras and its contractors over inflated the cost of capital expenditure projects and acquisitions by hundreds of millions of dollars and paid part of the proceeds to politicians from the ruling Workers' Party (PT) coalition.
The two principal figures involved in the alleged scam, Paulo Roberto Costa, a former Petrobras director, and Alberto Youssef, a convicted black market money dealer, have entered into plea bargains in which they allege that ruling coalition politicians received 3 per cent of all contracts.
The PT and its coalition partners have vehemently denied the claims.