Keppel refutes reports alleging senior managers endorsed bribes in Brazil

SINGAPORE - Conglomerate Keppel Corp has refuted media reports alleging that its senior management endorsed the payment of bribes to win work in Brazil.

The company was responding to a Bloomberg report that Mr Zwi Skornicki, a former third-party commercial representative for Keppel in Brazil, told a court that Keppel's top managers authorised him to bribe public officials in exchange for contracts for state-controlled Petroleo Brasileiro (Petrobras).

Mr Skornicki told a judge that five leading executives, including current Keppel Offshore & Marine chief executive officer Chow Yew Yuen, authorised him to bribe public officials in exchange for Petrobras contracts that often exceeded a billion dollars.

The other Keppel executives who allegedly knew about and authorised the kickbacks are Mr Tong Chong Heong, a former senior executive at Keppel Corp; Mr Tay Kim Hock, a former CEO of Keppel Fels Brasil; Mr Kwok Kai Choong, the current CEO at Keppel Fels Brasil; and Mr Choo Chiau Beng, a former Keppel Corp CEO, according to Mr Skornicki's testimony given on July 21 as part of an ongoing corruption investigation.

The testimony was published on a court website as part of the court record, Bloomberg's report said.

In an exchange filing released on Wednesday (Aug 3) night, Keppel said it "strongly denies the allegations reportedly made that Keppel executives authorised Mr Skornicki to pay bribes on its behalf".

"None of the individuals named in the article, including the current CEO of Keppel Offshore and Marine, Mr Chow Yew Yuen, have ever authorised Mr Skornicki to make any payments as bribes."

The ongoing corruption investigation, called the Carwash case, involves leading politicians from the ruling coalition who used their influence to hand pick members of Petrobras' top management, who then collected bribes and shared the proceeds with their political benefactors.

Keppel was first cited in the Carwash case in February 2015. Mr Skornicki also claims he paid bribes to win work with major Keppel client Sete Brasil, which stopped making payments to shipyards last year and filed for bankruptcy protection in April, after being implicated in the graft probe.