Ex-Sembcorp Marine employee charged with money laundering and corruption

Two people connected to Singapore’s rig builder Sembcorp Marine have faced charges for money laundering and corruption related to a drilling rig construction contract with Brazil’s drilling contractor Sete Brasil.

Sembcorp Marine said on Monday that the Ministério Público Federal in Brazil (MPF) had filed charges against Guilherme Esteves de Jesus (GDJ) for money laundering and ex-employee Martin Cheah Kok Choon for money laundering and corruption in connection with certain drilling rig construction contracts entered into by subsidiaries of the company with Sete Brasil in 2012.

Martin Cheah is the former President of Estaleiro Jurong Aracruz Ltda (EJA), SembMarine’s Brazilian subsidiary whose employment with the SCM group was terminated in June 2015. Companies connected to GDJ were engaged by the company’s subsidiaries as consultants in Brazil, with all such consultancy contracts having been suspended, and remain suspended, by the SCM group indefinitely.

The charges filed against Martin Cheah and GDJ by the MPF are in their personal capacities and not against EJA.

In light of these developments, the company said it would be lodging a further suspicious transaction report with the Commercial Affairs Department of the Singapore Police Force.

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

Operation Car Wash

In 2012, the company’s subsidiaries secured a number of drill rig construction contracts with the subsidiaries of Sete Brasil. Companies connected to Guilherme Esteves de Jesus were engaged by the company’s subsidiaries as consultants in Brazil.

In February 2015, there were various media reports that, inter alia, Pedro Jose Barusco (PJB), Petrobras’ former engineering manager, had made statements to the effect that illegal payments had been made in connection with contracts entered into by Petrobras and/or Sete Brasil.

Following the publication of these media reports, the company established a Special Committee of the Board, which then appointed legal counsels from Singapore and Brazil to conduct internal investigations and to advise the company. The company announced on March 30, 2015, that it had received a copy of a plea bargain entered into between PJB and the Brazilian authorities, in which PJB made allegations against GDJ in connection with the contracts, and that GDJ was arrested by the Brazilian authorities in late March 2015.

In April 2017, GDJ was charged by the Brazilian authorities and he defended the charges when his trial started in 2018.

All contracts for consultancy services provided to the company’s subsidiaries by companies connected to GDJ were suspended and remain suspended.

In July 2019, the Brazilian authorities executed a search warrant on EJA in connection with the ongoing investigations related to Operation Car Wash and against GDJ, who has been arrested by the Brazilian Federal Police. The company also learnt that the investigations which led to the execution of the search warrant on EJA have been expanded to include MCKC.