FEB 27, 2020
The ghost of Lava Jato and an unburied corpse return to frighten one of the largest economic groups operating in the country, especially in the oil and gas sector: Techint-Tenaris. Targets of the Italian Justice, the brothers Gianfelice and Paolo Rocca, in addition to Roberto Bonatti, partners of San Faustin, holding of the Techint group, are being sued by the Milan Criminal Court for international corruption linked to Petrobrás. The company’s Holding is headquartered in Luxembourg, but court hearings will be held in Italy.
The first will be on May 14. Prosecutors Donata Costa, who led the siege of former Prime Minister Silvio Berluscone, Fabio de Pasquale and Isidoro Palma, say they have consistent evidence that the then Director of Engineering and Services, Renato Duque, received a bribe to benefit Confab in exchange for 20 contracts that add up to more than R $ 6.5 billion, in an operation that was well designed to leave no trace. The contracts were in the name of Confab, a company controlled by San Faustin, through Tenaris, a company that belongs to the Techint Group. More details about these cases will be known from the hearings that will be held in Milan. In Italy, the scandal is somewhat hushed due to the seven deaths from the Coronavirus, the isolation of eleven cities and a certain panic of the population for fear of the spread of the epidemic in the north of the country.
But here in Brazil, the repercussions can be terrible for the Italo-Argentine economic group. Since the appearance of the case, it has turned on a yellow, almost orange light in the Petrobras Compliance Department. And it could turn red, if the actions to be taken by the company follow the same rigor that it has been defending since the entry of the new management of the company. And if this is confirmed, both Techint and Tenaris will be out of Petrobras’ business, having to comply with a mandatory quarantine until everything is resolved. Otherwise, the Brazilian state-owned company’s austerity policy will be disrespected and discredited. The case was already known, having been the subject of an investigation in phase 67 of Operation Lava Jato, where the company was accused of paying more than R $ 14 million to be able to supply tubes for Petrobras. But, even though it is known, it gains a new dimension with the involvement of new facts and international actors on the scene, which requires further investigation and monitoring of the case with the Italian justice. Depending on the extent of the complaints, the extent of punishment against companies may be even greater. They can be left out, for example, of all public works in Brazil.
The Italian Public Prosecutor’s Office says that Confab was favored because former director Renato Duque, arrested in Curitiba, negotiated directly with the company without opening up the possibility for competitors to hold public tenders. In fact, this confession is part of Duke’s plea. The novelty would be the Italian tentacles that were exposed at a time that Techint and Tenaris imagined that the case would have passed and been forgotten. Duque received 0.5% of the value of the contracts signed and, according to Italian prosecutors, he would have received the equivalent in reais of more than R $ 2.1 million.
The international plot discovered is so delicate and well engineered that Italian prosecutors asked for and had the participation and support of justice from six different countries: Brazil, Argentina, the United States, Switzerland, Panama and Luxembourg. Through a thorough investigation, they followed the money to get the bribe. The money came from accounts managed by San Faustin, in Lugano, Switzerland, the northeastern border of Italy. Italian prosecutors also discovered the involvement of Argentine Hector Alberto Zabaleta, former director of Techint, and Brazilian Benjamin Sodré Neto, representative of Confab.
As a reminder, Techint is an Italo-Argentine group, has several companies, including Tenaris, a pipe manufacturer and a high-performance engineering group for DED constructions for the oil, gas and energy industry. Its annual turnover exceeds 90 billion Euros, it has about 7 thousand employees and companies spread around the world. The group was involved following a plea by João Antônio Bernardi Filho. Bernardi revealed that Renato Duque had asked for help to launder money from corruption and confirmed to him that the bribe came from Confab, Techint’s Brazilian subsidiary.