U.S. charges Connecticut trader with bribery related to Brazil’s Petrobras

(Reuters) – U.S. prosecutors on Friday unveiled corruption charges against a Connecticut oil and gas trader and a second man over their alleged roles in a bribery scheme to win business from Brazil’s state-owned oil company Petrobras (PETR4.SA).

The Department of Justice said that between 2010 and 2018, Glenn Oztemel, 64, of Westport, Connecticut, and Eduardo Innecco, 73, a Brazilian-Italian oil and gas broker, paid bribes to help two Connecticut trading companies secure contracts and learn confidential details about Petrobras’ fuel oil business.

According to a seven-count indictment, the defendants and other conspirators used personal email accounts, and encrypted messaging apps to conceal the scheme, particularly regarding information received from Rodrigo Berkowitz, a former Petrobras fuel trader in Houston, in exchange for bribes.

The defendants also used coded language such as “breakfast” and “breakfast servings” to refer to bribes and bribe amounts, as well as fictitious names like when Innecco called himself “Spencer Kazisnaf,” the indictment said.

Both defendants were charged in New Haven, Connecticut federal court with bribery, money laundering and conspiracy, and could face decades in prison if convicted.

Oztemel was arrested in Florida on Wednesday, and released on $3 million bond after a hearing on Thursday in Miami. His lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Innecco is at large.

Before retiring in 2020, Oztemel worked for Stamford, Connecticut-based Freepoint Commodities as Fuel Oil Book Head for U.S. operations, and Innecco performed consulting work there.

Brazilian authorities investigated Freepoint employees as part of Operation Car Wash, a wide-ranging seven-year investigation into suspected bribery involving Petrobras.

Berkowitz told those authorities he tipped Freepoint employees about how much rivals were bidding when Petrobras auctioned fuels, enabling Freepoint to submit slightly higher bids but without overbidding.

Freepoint has not been charged. In a statement, it said it “will not tolerate corruption or illegal business practices,” and that the alleged misconduct violated Freepoint’s policies and commitment to following the law.

Berkowitz pleaded guilty in February 2019 to a money laundering conspiracy charge. His sentencing is scheduled for April 27 in Brooklyn federal court.

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