Former Petrobras Supply Director Paulo Roberto Costa died this Saturday, 13, at the age of 68, in Rio. Costa was the first whistleblower of Operation Lava Jato. Sentenced to 12 years in prison, he was able to serve part of the sentence at home and part in a semi-open regime. According to sources close to the former executive of the state-owned oil company, the death was the result of pancreatic cancer.
At Petrobras, Costa was accused of causing billions of losses in overpriced refinery works, such as Abreu Lima (Rnest), in Pernambuco, and the Rio Petrochemical Complex (Comperj), which are still unfinished.
When he signed his plea bargaining agreement with the Federal Public Ministry, Costa promised to return R$79 million. These were resources generated by corruption in the oil company’s business, which it held in dollars in foreign accounts. His denunciation reached the ex-minister of the Civil House Antonio Palocci, the ex-governor of Rio Sérgio Cabral (MDB) and the ex-governor of Maranhão Roseana Sarney, in addition to other politicians.
Costa was arrested on March 20, 2014, still in the second phase of Lava Jato. At the time, he was arrested on suspicion of destroying and hiding documents from the corruption scheme at Petrobras. In testimonies, he reported that each large state-owned contract corresponded to bribes of up to 3% of their values. The sharing, according to Costa, involved transfers to parties such as the PT, PP and MDB.
At the time, the Federal Police stated that money changer Alberto Youssef, also a target of Lava Jato, would have paid R$7.9 million in bribes to the former director of Supply at Petrobras between 2011 and 2012. The payments, according to the PF, were related to works at the Abreu e Lima refinery, which was tendered by the state-owned company.
In April 2015, the Federal Court condemned Costa for crimes of criminal organization and money laundering arising from embezzlement of public resources in the construction of Abreu e Lima. Youssef was also sentenced.
The former executive was a career employee at Petrobras, where he entered through a public contest in 1977, and started to hold leadership positions in the 1990s. Director appointed to Petrobras by the former PP (now Progressistas), in 2004, Costa stayed at company until Graça Foster took charge of the company in 2012, when he was fired in an attempt by the state-owned company to dissociate the company’s political influence.
Known for being lively and talkative, the former director retreated from the spotlight after his arrest and did not directly engage in any public activities.