Brazil to Monitor Any Probe of Petrobras Bribery Claims by Netherlands
Petrobras University building in Rio de JaneiroReuters

Brazil's lower house of Congress has approved the formation of a special committee to keep an eye on any probes in the Netherlands of allegations that a Dutch company paid bribes to officials at state-run oil firm Petrobras.

By a vote of 267-28, the 513-seat lower house decided on 11 March to create the committee regardless of opposition from President Dilma Rousseff's ruling Workers' Party, or PT, reported Reuters.

Lawmakers from the PT questioned the decision to create the committee because no prosecutor in the Netherlands has yet opened a formal investigation into the allegations of bribery by Dutch oil vessel leasing company SBM Offshore.

The vote accentuates a growing rift between the PT and the center-right PMDB, its largest partner in the ruling coalition, ahead of the October presidential election. In recent days, PMDB lawmakers have threatened to weaken the alliance with the PT because of what they see as the PMDB's decreasing role in the cabinet.

Reuters could not reach Petrobras for a comment after working hours.

Brazilian media, citing a former SBM executive, reported in February that SBM allegedly paid bribes to bag contracts for floating oil platforms with Petróleo Brasileiro or Petrobras.

An internal investigation at Petrobas was initiated in February after the Rio de Janeiro-based firm was linked to a 20-month probe of SBM Offshore's commercial activities. The allegations by the unidentified former SBM employee suggest that Petrobras officials were paid $139m (£84m, €100m) in bribes through an intermediary.

Petrobras Offering

The Brazilian oil company sold $8.5bn in dollar bonds on 11 March, a day after they were issued, reported Bloomberg.

Investors flocked to pick up the securities after the firm offered yields of as much as 0.45 percentage point higher than existing bonds.