RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazilian state oil company Petrobras said in a securities filing Thursday that it had rescinded a contract to supply natural gas to Ambar Energia, a sister company of meatpacking giant JBS and a unit of conglomerate J&F Investimentos, whose owners have leveled corruption allegations against President Michel Temer as part of a plea deal.
Petrobras, which is at the center of a pay-to-play scheme that is Brazil’s biggest-ever corruption scandal, cited an anti-corruption clause in the contract to justify its decision to halt the supply of natural gas to Ambar’s thermoelectric power station, which is located in the western state of Mato Grosso.
“The contract with Ambar was executed on April 13, 2017, and sets forth a clause in which the aforementioned company stated that there was no payment or offering of any undue advantage to any public authority,” the oil company said.
“However, Petrobras has become aware of recordings from the plea bargain agreements by J&F group executives that acts in violation of the anti-corruption legislation in force have been committed.”
It also said it would exercise its right to charge Ambar 70 million reais ($21.9 million) for the contract breach.
In the filing, Petrobras said that during talks on a new contract with Ambar the price conditions agreed upon were based on market criteria.
It made that clarification because Joesley and Wesley Batista – the owners of J&F – told prosecutors as part of their plea deal that Ambar was able to secure artificially low prices for the natural gas Petrobras imported from Bolivia.
The Batistas also said in their plea-bargain testimony that the rapid rise of JBS, now a global meat powerhouse, was the result of the payment of bribes totaling 600 million reais (some $187.5 million) to 1,829 politicians from 28 parties.
The politicians on the take, the Batistas told prosecutors, included two former presidents – Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and his protege and successor Dilma Rousseff – and Temer.
All three deny any wrongdoing.
The Batistas also handed over an audio recording in which, among other things, Wesley Batista refers to hush-money payments to an imprisoned former speaker of Brazil’s lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, and Temer appears to say those payments need to continue.
The Supreme Court, which has jurisdiction over cases involving sitting lawmakers, has launched an investigation into Temer for alleged corruption, obstruction of justice and criminal conspiracy based on those allegations.