| BRASILIA, March 25
BRASILIA, March 25 Opposition legislators asked
Brazil's top prosecutor on Tuesday to investigate President
Dilma Rousseff's role in the purchase of a Texas refinery by
Brazil's state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA
which critics say was way overpriced.
Rousseff, who chaired the company's board at the time, last
week said her approval of the 2006 purchase was based on a
"flawed" and "incomplete" executive summary.
Mounting criticism of the deal puts her in a difficult
position by providing her opponents with ammunition to attack
her reputation as a good administrator just six months before
she seeks reelection to a second term
A group of lawmakers led by Senator Randolfe Rodrigues of
the socialist PSOL party asked Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot
to investigate whether Rousseff lied about the refinery deal.
Public prosecutors are already probing the Pasadena Refinery
purchase. Investigators at Brazil's TCU audit court have
questioned the value Petrobras paid for the asset, which
processes about 100,000 barrels of crude a day, including the
heavy crude that dominates Petrobras output.
Petrobras, as the company is known, paid $360 million to buy
50 percent of Pasadena Refining System Inc. in 2006 from
Belgium's Astra Oil NV, more than eight times what Astra paid
for the whole refinery a year earlier. The price rose to $1.18
billion in 2012 after a dispute between Astra and Petrobras led
to Petrobras' buyout of Astra's stake.
Rousseff's most likely rivals in the October 5 election,
Senator Aecio Neves of the main opposition party PSDB and
Pernambuco state governor Eduardo Campos are both calling for a
congressional inquiry into the refinery purchase.
While it is unlikely that Rousseff will face prosecution,
the investigations could undermine her comfortable lead over the
most likely opponents in current opinion polls ahead of the
October 5 election.
Petrobras is already in the spotlight due to investigations
in Brazil and abroad that company officials accepted bribes from
Dutch oil production ship leaser SBM Offshore NV.
These allegations have added to criticism of the performance
of Petrobras on Rousseff's watch. She was chairwoman of the
company from Jan. 1, 2003 until March 19, 2010 when she stepped
down to run for president
The state-run company's debt has ballooned by 64 percent
since Rousseff became president on Jan. 1, 2011 to $114.3
billion at the end of 2013. The debt is the largest of any oil
company according to Thomson Reuters.
Petrobras debt has soared as Rousseff and her Workers' Party
pushed the company to spend billions on developing giant new
offshore resources while controlling the price of gasoline and
diesel fuel on the domestic market.
With the country's refineries unable to meet demand, rising
imports are being sold at home at a loss.
The world's sixth-largest company as recently as 2008,
Petrobras has lost half of its market value since Rousseff
became president and is now worth about $74 billion.
(Additional reporting by Jeb Blount in Rio de Janeiro; editing
by Andrew Hay)