Former Executive Goes Silent on Petrobras Corruption Scandal

Former Executive Goes Silent on Petrobras Corruption Scandal

Jailed Renato Duque declines to answer questions at Brazilian congressional hearing

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Former Petrobras service director Renato Duque, pictured above, has refused to answer questions at a Brazilian congressional hearing.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

By

WILL CONNORS/WSJ

March 19, 2015 12:06 p.m. ET

RIO DE JANEIRO—A recently jailed former executive of Brazil’s state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA appeared before a congressional hearing on Thursday, but declined to answer questions about his alleged role in a vast corruption scheme that has shaken Brazil’s political establishment and its biggest company.

Renato Duque, former Petrobras director of services, was arrested on Monday on chargesof money laundering and corruption.

Lawmakers had been hoping to ask Mr. Duque questions about the alleged scheme. “There is a time to speak and a time to be silent,” Mr. Duque said. “This is the time of silence, in my point of view. I find myself in jail, so, therefore, I am exercising my constitutional right to remain silent.”

Mr. Duque’s lawyer has denied his client committed any wrongdoing.

Mr. Duque is the fourth former Petrobras executive charged in a wide-ranging investigation into corruption at the company. Brazilian prosecutors say he was a key part of the alleged scheme. This week they said he had 22.5 million euros ($23.8 million) in bank accounts in Monaco and that those assets have been frozen.

Brazilian media covered Mr. Duque’s appearance live on television, perhaps expecting fireworks, after another former Petrobras executive jolted the country with detailed testimony before the same hearing last week.

Pedro Barusco, a former Petrobras engineering and services manager, told lawmakers that he amassed nearly $100 million in bribes over more than a decade, and that the country’s ruling political party received twice that amount. Mr. Barusco has made a plea deal with prosecutors, in an attempt to reduce his punishment.

Prosecutors say a group of Petrobras contractors, including some of Brazil’s largest construction firms, formed a cartel to inflate value of contracts of major projects at the oil company, primarily between 2004-12. Those companies, in turn, kicked back a portion of the proceeds to Petrobras executives, Brazilian politicians and political parties, sometimes as campaign donations, prosecutors say.

The ruling Workers’ Party, other parties andmany politicians, companies and former Petrobras executives have repeatedly denied wrongdoing. Others have said they are cooperating with authorities, while some have declined to comment.

Write to Will Connors at william.connors@wsj.com

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