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Man linked to SembMarine jailed for almost 20 years in Brazil corruption probe

AN individual connected to the consultants engaged by Sembcorp Marine’s (SembMarine) subsidiaries has been found guilty of corruption, money laundering and participation in a criminal organisation.

In a bourse filing on Friday, SembMarine said the Federal Courts of Curitiba in Brazil have sentenced Guilherme Esteves de Jesus to 19 years and four months in prison, as well as a fine.

On top of that, the Public Prosecutor's Office in Brazil, Ministério Público Federal, has filed further charges against him for money laundering, and this proceeding is still ongoing, SembMarine said.

SembMarine subsidiaries had engaged companies connected to de Jesus as consultants for drilling unit construction contracts with Brazilian rig supplier Sete Brasil in 2012.

The criminal charges in the Curitiba courts had alleged, among other things, that he made certain payments in connection with contracts inked in Brazil by SembMarine subsidiaries.

Aside from de Jesus, Martin Cheah Kok Choon – the former president of SembMarine’s Brazilian unit Estaleiro Jurong Aracruz – has also been charged by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Brazil, as announced by SembMarine early this month.

Cheah is accused of money laundering and corruption in connection with the drilling rig construction contracts with Sete Brasil. His employment with SembMarine group was terminated in June 2015.

Other than Cheah, the company is not aware of any other employee past or present that is a subject of ongoing investigations by the Brazilian authorities related to Operation Car Wash.

Operation Car Wash is a major anti-corruption probe in Brazil which has implicated politicians and large Brazilian companies including state-owned oil company Petrobras.

Sete Brasil's only client was Petrobas and it failed to secure long-term financing from state development bank BNDES amid allegations of kickbacks. Following that, debt-ridden Sete Brasil filed for and obtained bankruptcy protection in 2016.

In October 2019, SembMarine reached settlement deals with Sete Brasil for drillship and rig-building contracts that were frozen after Sete Brasil filed for bankruptcy.

SembMarine had seven drillship contracts with Sete Brasil worth a total US$5.6 billion. Of this amount, it received S$2.7 billion from Sete Brasil before payments stopped in November 2014.

Shares of SembMarine were down S$0.02 or 1.7 per cent to S$1.18 as at 11.22am on Friday, after it made the announcement about de Jesus’s sentencing.

Separately, SembMarine on Thursday reported another dismal quarter, slipping into the red with a net loss of S$77.7 million for the three months to Dec 31, 2019 due to a persistent downturn in the offshore and marine space.