BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil's finance ministry has uncovered more than $9 billion in suspicious transactions involving Petrobras (IW 1000/23), the state oil giant at the center of a massive corruption scandal, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
The finance ministry audit has identified suspicious deposits and withdrawals totaling 23.7 billion reais, or $9.164 billion, between 2011 and 2014.
The paper said the transactions involved thousands of people and companies who did business with Petrobras, Brazil's biggest company, over that period.
According to the ministry auditor, COAF, cash transactions alone totalled 350.6 million, Globo said.
The auditor's office told AFP only its chairman could confirm the sums, adding he was away and unable to comment.
The report came as investigators interview dozens of suspects, including two former Petrobras directors and senior executives of some of Brazil's leading companies, in connection with a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal dubbed "Operation Car Wash."
Investigators believe as much as $4 billion was allegedly paid to members of the ruling Workers Party and other politicians between 2004 and 2012 to buy influence with cash creamed off inflated Petrobras contracts.
The head of Brazil's accounts watchdog, Augusto Nardes, estimated on Monday that the kickbacks paid via inflated contracts could have totaled more than $1.16 billion.
"Based on the figures we have, it's certainly the biggest scandal in Brazilian history," Nardes told Globo.
Some of those arrested have offered to cooperate with the investigation and also pay back in some cases tens of millions of dollars as they seek a plea bargain.
Five suspects, including Paulo Roberto Costa, a jailed former Petrobras director who exposed the massive scope of the alleged payments, were reported to have pledged to repay $165 million.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014