Rio de Janeiro, (AFP)
Brazilian authorities Saturday blasted a news magazine for media “manipulation” as the government of President Dilma Rousseff battles an escalating kickbacks scandal at state-owned oil giant Petrobras.
Rousseff’s press service lambasted Veja magazine for alleging that jailed former Petrobras director and whistleblower Paulo Roberto Costa had sent her email alluding to the payments in 2009.
Veja did not reproduce any evidence to back its claim but alleged Costa wrote to Rousseff as he sought to blindside attempts by the federal accountability office (TCU) to halt three Petrobras refinery projects, thereby preventing any possibility of kickbacks from those schemes.
Rousseff’s press service slammed Veja’s interpretation as “another episode of journalistic manipulation.”
A statement read: “After trying to interfere in the results of the presidential election … Veja is now trying to fool its readers by insinuating that, in 2009, the siphoning off of money by Paulo Roberto Costa, Petrobras director fired in March 2012 by President Dilma’s government, was already known about.
“(But) the illegal practices of Paulo Roberto Costa only came to light in 2014, thanks to investigations carried out by the federal police and justice ministry.
“Once again, Veja is misinforming its readers and trying to manipulate the facts,” the statement concluded.
Rousseff, a former Petrobras board chair, has vowed not to interfere in the investigation into Brazil’s biggest company.
But Ronaldo Caiado, leader of Brazil’s opposition Democrats, urged Rousseff and predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to appear themselves before the congressional investigation.
On the eve of last month’s presidential election which saw Rousseff secure a second term, Veja quoted detained money dealer Alberto Youssef as testifying that Rousseff knew about a kickbacks scheme which saw government allies scoop huge sums of cash creamed from overcharged Petrobras contracts.
Nobody has been convicted in the case but Costa and Yousseff are both in detention seeking a plea bargain whereby investigators would give them an eventual reduced sentence in exchange for telling all they know.