The State Public Ministry of Rio de Janeiro (MP-RJ) opened an investigation to investigate signs of administrative impropriety by Petrobras’ management in recent fuel price adjustments. The civil investigation was opened in November last year at the Attorney General’s Office in Rio, but was sent to the state agency on the 15th of this month. The state-owned company was contacted, but did not respond.
The investigation integrates a series of actions by different bodies with the aim of tightening the siege against the state-owned company. Last week, Petrobras readjusted the value of gasoline and diesel by, respectively, 5.2% and 14.2%, which generated an immediate reaction in political sectors. President Jair Bolsonaro (PL), for example, publicly defended the installation of a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) against the company to investigate alleged irregularities in the formulation of the fuel price policy.
Another Petrobras investigation front is led by the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (Cade), which has at least eleven cases directly or indirectly involving the company. Part of the investigations aims at the readjustments practiced by the state-owned company. The latest revision of fuel prices raised gasoline sold at refineries by 20 cents, which now costs R$ 4.06 per liter. Already diesel, which now costs R$ 5.61 a liter, had an increase of 70 cents.
The most recent readjustment led to the resignation of the then president of Petrobras, José Mauro Coelho, who had been pressured by Bolsonaro. The president of the Chamber, Arthur Lira (Progressistas-AL), started to endorse the criticism of the state-owned company and became one of the defenders of the installation of the CPI.
The author of the request, Altineu Cortês (PL-RJ), accuses Petrobras of making an irregular “profit reserve” above the previously defined technical parameters. The document says that the oil company would be allocating its profits, “hurriedly, for payments of earnings in percentages far above the legal minimum, instead of being used in investments or other purposes more aligned with the public interest”.
The company stated that the profit reserve was established over the years, in accordance with the Brazilian Corporation Law and the company’s bylaws.