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Petrobras whistleblower says he alerted Brazil gov’t to irregularities in ’09

Brasilia, Dec 3 (EFE).- Brazilian state-controlled oil giant Petrobras’ former downstream director, who has blown the whistle on a massive corruption scheme as part of a plea-bargain deal with prosecutors, said he alerted the government to irregularities at the company in 2009.

In an appearance Tuesday before a congressional committee investigating the scandal, Paulo Roberto Costa, who was arrested in March on charges of orchestrating the scheme, said he “personally” informed the company’s board of directors and sent an e-mail to the ministry of the presidency when current President Dilma Rousseff headed both entities.

He added, however, that he never held a meeting with Rousseff nor with then-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to discuss the problem “clearly and transparently.”

The Brazilian president’s office said last week that the government had not been aware of any wrongdoing in 2009, denying a report by weekly news magazine Veja indicating that Costa had written to Rousseff that year about irregularities at Petrobras.

Costa said he alerted Rousseff in the e-mail to the “many difficulties” Petrobras was having in attracting competitive bids for projects to build two refineries and a port and informed her about a purported cartel formed by Brazil’s top construction companies.

Last month, police arrested senior executives of seven leading construction firms suspected of colluding to divvy up Petrobras contracts and inflate prices as part of a vast corruption scheme that saw billions of dollars in bribes paid to politicians and political parties.

In his testimony Tuesday, Costa said that in 2009 he was “angry” about the corruption scheme and that he “bitterly regretted” having accepted the position of Petrobras downstream director.

Costa has told an investigative judge that 3 percent of each contract in the refineries and supply area was funneled to political parties.

He also said the corruption model uncovered at Petrobras is seen in all of the country’s public-works projects.

“What happened at Petrobras is occurring all over Brazil: in (projects for) roads, railways, airports, ports and hydroelectric plants! It’s just a matter of investigating because it’s happening,” he told lawmakers.