New York - A Brazilian national who previously served as a chief executive officer (CEO) of Braskem S.A. (Braskem), a publicly traded Brazilian petrochemical company, pleaded guilty to conspiring to divert hundreds of millions of dollars from Braskem into a secret slush fund and to pay bribes to government officials, political parties, and others in Brazil to obtain and retain business.
According to court documents, between approximately 2002 and 2014, Jose Carlos Grubisich, 64, a citizen of Brazil — who served as the CEO and a member of the board of directors of Braskem as well as in various capacities for Braskem’s parent company, Odebrecht S.A. (Odebrecht) - engaged in a scheme to bribe Brazilian government officials in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). As part of the scheme, Grubisich and his co-conspirators diverted approximately $250 million from Braskem into a secret slush fund, which Grubisich and others had generated through fraudulent contracts and offshore shell companies secretly controlled by Braskem.
Grubisich admitted that while CEO of Braskem, he agreed to pay bribes to Brazilian government officials to ensure Braskem’s retention of a contract for a significant petrochemical project from Petroleo Brasileiro S.A. (Petrobras), Brazil’s state-owned and state-controlled oil company. Grubisich also admitted that, as Braskem’s CEO, he falsified Braskem’s books and records by falsely recording the payments to Braskem’s offshore shell companies as payments for legitimate services. Grubisich also signed false Sarbanes-Oxley certifications submitted to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that, among other things, attested that Braskem’s annual reports fairly and accurately represented Braskem’s financial condition, and that Grubisich, as Braskem’s principal officer, had disclosed all fraudulent conduct by Braskem’s management and other employees with control over Braskem’s financial reporting.
“As CEO of a publicly traded company, Grubisich and other senior executives at Braskem engaged in a large-scale, sophisticated international bribery and fraud scheme and then lied to U.S. shareholders and authorities to conceal their criminal conduct,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “Today’s guilty plea demonstrates the Department’s commitment to holding individuals accountable for corrupt and fraudulent conduct, including those at the highest corporate echelons.”
“Grubisich abused his position of trust as CEO of Braskem to both facilitate and conceal the payment of millions of dollars in bribes so that Braskem could increase its profits and its senior executives — including Grubisich himself — could personally benefit,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Mark J. Lesko of the Eastern District of New York. “This office is committed to the prosecution of corrupt gatekeepers, including officers and directors of public companies, who, like Grubisich, use the United States’ financial system to commit crimes.”
Grubisich pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA and one count of conspiracy to violate the books and records provision of the FCPA and to fail to accurately certify Braskem’s financial reports. Grubisich has also agreed to pay approximately $2.2 million in forfeiture. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 5, and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Any sentence will be determined after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
In December 2016, Braskem and Odebrecht each pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of New York to separate one-count criminal informations charging them with conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA. Braskem settled with the SEC in related proceedings on the same day.
The FBI’s International Corruption squad in New York is investigating the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs also provided substantial assistance. The department also expresses its appreciation for the assistance provided by the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, Ministério Público Federal and the Departamento de Polícia Federal in Brazil, the Office of the Attorney General in Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Office of Justice, and the governments of Portugal, Andorra, United Kingdom, and Panama.
Assistant Chief Lorinda Laryea and Trial Attorney Leila Babaeva of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Julia Nestor and Alixandra Smith of the Eastern District of New York are prosecuting the case, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Mantell of the Eastern District’s Civil Division handling forfeiture matters.