Workers' Party MPs file questions on Keppel's Brazil graft case for January Parliament sitting

Rig workers at the Petroleo Brasileiro SA P-51 oil platform at the Keppel-Fels Shipyard in Angra dos Reis, Rio de Janeiro, on Aug 21, 2008.
Rig workers at the Petroleo Brasileiro SA P-51 oil platform at the Keppel-Fels Shipyard in Angra dos Reis, Rio de Janeiro, on Aug 21, 2008. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG/RENZO GOSTOLI

SINGAPORE - A bribery scandal in Brazil involving Keppel Corporation's offshore and marine unit may be discussed in Parliament on Jan 8, with three Workers' Party (WP) MPs having filed questions on the case.

WP assistant secretary-general Pritam Singh said in a Facebook post on Friday (Dec 29) that he, along with fellow Aljunied GRC MP and WP chairman Sylvia Lim and Hougang MP Png Eng Huat, have filed four questions asking for more information.

Keppel Offshore & Marine (Keppel O&M) is set to pay US$422 million (S$563 million) in fines under a global resolution with criminal authorities in the United States, Brazil and Singapore, in relation to corrupt payments made by a former Keppel agent in Brazil.

The unprecedented resolution was announced in a statement last Saturday by the Singapore-listed conglomerate.

Mr Singh, who made public the questions in his Facebook post, said: "We will have to wait and see if these questions are prioritised among the first 15 or so for oral answer, failing which they will have to be deferred for the next sitting or set down for a written answer."

Describing the case as "what must be one of the largest corruption scandals in the history of Singapore's government-linked companies", he added that he was surprised to see there was no "substantive information" on the case on the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) or Corrupt Practices Investigtion Bureau (CPIB) websites, save for a "brief press statement".

From 2001 to 2014, Keppel O&M had paid US$55 million in bribes to officials at Brazilian state-owned oil giant Petrobras and the Workers Party of Brazil, the then governing political party, to win 13 contracts with Petrobras and Brazilian oil rig builder Sete Brasil Participacoes.

Keppel O&M, which earned US$351.8 million through the bribery scheme, was issued a conditional warning by the CPIB, in lieu of prosecution for corruption offences.

Mr Singh said this was "made even more curious in view of Keppel's denial over a year ago that its top executives were even involved in giving out bribes for contracts".

Keppel had announced in October last year (2016) that it "recognised" certain transactions associated with its former agent in Brazil, Zwi Skornicki, "may be suspicious".

For the January Parliament sitting, Ms Lim has asked about the considerations in reaching the global resolution, which she said had implications on local law enforcement and prosecutorial decisions.

Mr Singh, meanwhile, has asked Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat whether the agreements on the corruption probe settlement include any condition that prevents the public disclosure of the identities of the Singaporeans involved in the case.

He also asked how many Singapore government-linked companies or their subsidiaries have been investigated, or are being investigated, by local or overseas authorities for corrupt practices over the last 30 years.

At least six former employees of Keppel O&M have been implicated in the Brazil case, including some from the firm's US and Brazil operations, United States court documents showed.

Keppel said that it has taken disciplinary action against the employees involved in the case, but declined to disclose the financial penalties, or the identities of the individual employees involved, citing legal reasons.

Another question, filed by Mr Png, has to do with the CPIB's investigations into the case.

He asked Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong when the CPIB, which is under the Prime Minister's Office, will complete its investigations in relation to the Singaporeans involved in the case.

The AGC and CPIB were involved in investigative proceedings, and said in a joint statement last week that "investigations in respect of the individuals involved are ongoing".

The Singapore authorities said in issuing the conditional warning in lieu of prosecution, due consideration was given to the "substantial cooperation" rendered by Keppel O&M to the investigations and the extensive remedial measures taken.

Keppel had reported to AGC and CPIB the corrupt payments made by it.

Keppel will pay to Singapore US$52.7 million within 90 days from the date of the conditional warning, and a further US$52.7 million within three years from the date of the warning, less any penalties paid to the Brazilian authorities during this period.