Ex-Petrobras CEO Bendine convicted of corruption in Brazil

FILE PHOTO - Petroleo Brasileiro S.A. (PETROBRAS) CEO Aldemir Bendine listens to a question during a news conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Aldemir Bendine, the former chief executive of state-controlled oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA and Banco do Brasil, was found guilty on Wednesday of corruption charges and sentenced by a federal judge to 11 years in prison.

Judge Sergio Moro ruled that Bendine used his position at Petrobras to take 3 million reais ($924,527) in bribes from construction firm Odebrecht [ODBES.UL].

“The condemned took his position as CEO of Petrobras amid a corruption scandal and with the expectation that he would solve problems,” Moro wrote in his ruling. “The last behavior one would expect from him would be corruption, once again putting at risk the reputation of the company.”

Bendine’s legal team did not immediately reply to requests for comment. His attorneys said throughout the trial that he was innocent and that no company received special benefits from Petrobras or Banco do Brasil under his leadership.

He served as CEO of Petrobras, as the company is known, from 2015 to 2016, and was brought in to clean up the firm after its central role in a huge corruption scandal that has embroiled politicians and business executives.

Bendine, who led state-owned lender Banco do Brasil from 2009 to 2015, was charged last August.

Prosecutors alleged that Bendine sought 17 million reais in bribes when he led Banco do Brasil to authorize the rollover of a loan to Odebrecht. Odebrecht refused to pay him, according to testimony from its executives.

Shortly before taking over as head of Petrobras, he demanded and received payment of 3 million reais from Odebrecht so that it could receive unspecified favorable treatment from Petrobras, Moro found in his ruling.

($1 = 3.2449 reais)

Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Additional reporting by Brad Brooks in Sao Paulo; Editing by Peter Cooney