Singapore Charges Ex-Executives and Settles with Seatrium in Brazil Bribery

Brazilian shipyard subsidiary Sembcorp Marine
Singapore concluded its investigation into the bribery in Brazil charging two executives and settling with the company (file photo)

Published Apr 1, 2024 2:38 PM by The Maritime Executive


The authorities in Singapore announced that they have completed their investigation into the alleged corruption and bribery offenses by the former Sembcorp Marine finding that there was sufficient evidence to mount a prosecution. Two former executives are being charged in the decade-old case centering around payments made in Brazil to win business, while a tentative agreement has been reached for the successor company, Seatrium, to pay fines.

The Singapore investigation was announced in May 2023 by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau and now with consultation with the Attorney-General’s Chambers, they moved forward with the prosecution. They charged the company’s former President, Executive Director, and Chief Executive Officer, Wong Weng Sun, and a former senior director of one of the company’s subsidiaries, Lee Fook Kang, with five charges of conspiring to pay bribes to a then consultant of the company in Brazil. Wong is also being charged with instructing two employees in 2014 to delete emails containing evidence of the bribes.

The bribes were paid to various government officials and to Sete Brasil and Petroleo Brasileiro between 2009 and 2014 to win lucrative contracts for offshore equipment. Singapore officials are now alleging the executives at the company’s headquarters conspired to pay the bribes, including US$2 million in 2009, US$1.9 million between 2010 and 2012, US$1.2 million in 2010, and US$300,000 in 2010. In addition, they agreed to pay up to 2.5 percent of the contract sums relating to the drilling rig contracts to be awarded by Sete Brasil which amounts to more than US$26 million.

A tentative agreement has also been reached for Seatrium to pay US$110 million as a financial penalty to settle the charges in Singapore. They will be permitted to credit up to US$53 million to offset settlement payments agreed to in principle with the Brazilian Attorney-General’s office and others in Brazil. The authorities in Singapore said the agreement defers criminal charges if the company agrees to comply with conditions, such as admission of the wrongdoing, payment of penalties, and implementation of reforms.

It is the latest in a series of settlements in the long-running case. In February, Seatrium announced a US$135 million settlement agreement in Brazil. It centers on the payments made by an agent working for the company and the awarding to Sembcorp Marine in 2014 of seven drillship contracts from Brazil’s Sete Brasil valued at $5.6 billion. Both predecessor companies, Sembcorp Marine and Keppel Offshore & Marine were tied to what has become known as Operation Car Wash, which has been called one of Brazil’s largest corruption scandals involving a broad range of politicians and companies.

The authorities are recommending that the company have in place robust procedures and safeguards against illicit activities. Seatrium responded to inquiries by the Singapore Exchange Securities Trading confirming that both executives are former employees with no current association to the company. They also previously highlighted that safeguards were in place. The company continues to do business in Brazil with a subsidiary shipyard in the country. 

The former consultant, Guilherme Esteves de Jesus was indicted in 2020 on charges of money laundering, found guilty, and sentenced to 19 years in jail. The former president of Sembcorp Marine’s Brazilian subsidiary, Martin Cheah Kok Choon was also indicted in 2020 on charges of money laundering and corruption. He had been terminated from the company in 2015 but in December 2023 along with another former executive was acquitted.