As convincing as Fred up front

This story raises more questions than it provides answers:

A federal judge in Brazil has reportedly sentenced the former vice president of local engineering firm Mendes Junior to 19 years and four months in prison for his role in the massive kickback scheme.

Judge Sergio Moro convicted Sergio Cunha Mendes of corruption, money laundering and racketeering for the payment of 31.5 million reais ($8.3 million) in bribes to obtain contracts with state-run oil company Petrobras, Reuters reported.

Okay, so somebody in Petrobras collected $8.3m in bribes, right?

The judge also ordered the former executive to return that same amount to Petrobras.

Sorry, what?  Return that same amount?  In which direction were the bribes flowing?  If Mendes has to return $8.3m to Petrobras, that implies he received $8.3m from Petrobras.  In order to obtain contracts.  Look, I know Brazil is hopelessly corrupt, but how does a local engineering firm shake down the state oil company for $8.3m in the course of obtaining contracts?  Alternatively, if Mendes was paying $8.3m in bribes to Petrobras, what is there to return?

Seven other people, including former Mendes Junior executives, intermediaries and former Petrobras director of refining and supply Paulo Roberto Costa were also convicted, according to the news wire.

So a single, solitary Petrobras director.  He must be one of the rogue employees they were talking about.  It appears he was the recipient (or originator!) of $8.3m in bribes, an enterprise in which he supposedly involved none of his colleagues.  Did nobody notice his turning up to work in a Bugatti Veyron?

Costa, who helped prosecutors unravel Brazil’s largest ever corruption scandal through a plea bargain deal he made after his arrest in March of last year, is under house arrest at his home in Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil’s largest ever corruption scandal, the congressional investigation into which concluded:

[Petrobras] and politicians did no wrong, and that suppliers and rogue employees were responsible for graft, according to a report.

Yet in the original article we are told that:

Money dealer Alberto Youssef received a suspended sentence because he has already accumulated 30 years in prison for previous convictions for his role in the scheme where kickbacks to Petrobras executives and politicians were skimmed off overpriced construction contracts.

So a corruption scandal run by a handful of rogue employees in which Petrobras and politicians are wholly innocent is the largest ever, whereas a previous corruption scandal involving Petrobras executives and politicians isn’t?

Prosecutors say more than $2 billion was lost to Petrobras in bribes paid out by what they call a cartel of engineering firms.

Well, yes.  So either this whole investigation is a complete whitewash, or the corporate governance in Petrobras so poor that the entire senior management should be fired for negligence.  Which is it?

Mendes Junior is the third top Brazilian construction and engineering company to have executives sentenced in the scandal, following Camargo Correa and OAS.

These “rogue employees” seem to have had more clout than the President.

Is anyone convinced by this?  Anyone?

“Nobody in Mr Costa’s car pool suspected anything.”


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