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A lawsuit against the U.S. State Department has accused Brazilian state-owned oil major Petrobras of ordering the murders of Shell executive Todd Staheli and his wife in 2003 and demanded that the State Department release documents that prove that, the Salt Lake Tribune has reported.
The lawsuit was filed by the children of Todd and Michelle Staheli. Todd and Michelle were found bludgeoned to death in their bed in November 2003, in their Rio de Janeiro home. The double murder made international headlines at the time, and a handyman was convicted for the murders, but it appears that the victims’ families have remained unconvinced that he was the real culprit.
The lawsuit states that Todd Staheli “had been assigned the task of extracting Shell from certain joint ventures in Brazil,” and that he had been “conducting an audit of certain joint ventures … due to suspicious activity regarding the misappropriation of joint venture funds.”
The suit also notes that Petrobras “has a long and complex history of engaging in corrupt and illegal business practices,” no doubt referring to its involvement in the massive corruption and fraud scheme that the Brazilian authorities uncovered during the so-called Operation Car Wash that resulted in convictions for several high-ranking business executives and politicians—including former president Ignacio Lula da Silva.
“We believe there’s probably a lot of significant documents [the State Department is] not releasing,” said one of the lawyers for the Staheli children, Rodney G. Snow, as quoted by the Salt Lake Tribune. “Petrobras is 51% owned by the Brazilian government. So that makes this a little more sensitive to the State Department.”
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Since, according to the suit, Todd Staheli had been involved in what is effectively an investigation into Petrobras, this became the motive for the double murder, the Utah daily reported.
The plaintiffs, the document said, “believe, and the evidence demonstrates, that Todd and Michelle Staheli were murdered as a result of Todd Staheli’s extraordinarily dangerous assignment and investigation into Petrobras.”
The theory that the murders may have been related to Staheli’s work was dismissed in 2003 based on the fact that there was no motive since the fraud allegations that has embroiled Petrobras for years now had not yet been brought to light.
The U.S. State Department has failed to produce documents that the Staheli’s have requested within the 20 days required under the Freedom of Information Act. The State Department still hasn’t fulfilled the request, and issued an estimated date of November 2022 for the release.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com