Petrobras data theft was industrial spying -police

RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Brazilian police said on Tuesday they were treating the theft of strategic data from Brazil's state-run energy giant Petrobras PETR4.SAPBR.N as a case of industrial espionage.

Petrobras confirmed last Thursday that four laptops and two RAM memory chips were stolen in late January from a transport container owned by the U.S. oil-field service company Halliburton HAL.N, a longtime Petrobras business partner.

The data came from a drilling ship in the Santos basin, where a huge new oil reserve was recently discovered. The find could make Brazil one of the world’s major oil producers.

“There was in the container office equipment and laptops. They didn’t take all the equipment, which leads us to think it was not a common crime,” federal police superintendent Valdinho Jacinto Caetano told a news conference.

“Whoever was looking for hard drives was not carrying out a common crime. There was a specific interest in a definite subject.”

Caetano confirmed it was not the first case of data robbery from Petrobras. The company reported similar cases to police about a year ago but said they did not involve important information.

He faulted the security in the latest case.

“There’s no doubt the security system for this material was weak, a lot of people had access. It was inadequate for important information,” he said.

Petrobras has not specified the exact nature of the data that was stolen. Halliburton has declined to comment on the case.

The investigation would determine if the fault lay with Petrobras or with Halliburton and transport company Transmagno, Caetano said.

Police had questioned nine people and would talk to 15 more. In Macae, a main center for Brazil’s oil industry, they were interviewing a Halliburton employee and two Transmagno workers on Tuesday. (Reporting by Rodrigo Gaier and Mauricio Savarese; writing by Angus MacSwan; editing by Mohammad Zargham)