- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 19, 2008

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) — Information stolen from Brazil’s state-run oil company was related to two huge new offshore petroleum finds, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said.

In comments to reporters during a trip to Brazil’s Antarctic research station, Mr. Lula da Silva characterized last month’s theft of four laptops and two hard drives as “serious” because it involved state secrets. He said that the Brazilian Intelligence Agency was assisting federal police in their investigation.

But Mr. Lula da Silva said it is too soon to determine whether the information was stolen by a group planning to pass information about the Tupi and Jupiter petroleum fields to foreign companies or governments.

“The software contained information that was a state secret,” he said in remarks released late Sunday by the presidential press office. “This is a serious thing that we are investigating.”

Petroleo Brasileiro has refused to give details about the missing data except to say it was “confidential information” stolen from “equipment and materials that contain important information for the company.”

But Petrobras told authorities the information affects Brazil’s national interests.

News of the theft was made public last week, but Mr. Lula da Silva’s comments were the first official confirmation that the data stolen was related to the big petroleum finds.

Police say the four laptops and two hard drives were in the possession of Houston-based oil services giant Halliburton Co. They were guarded by a security contractor that Petrobras declined to name.

and were stolen last month while being transported from an offshore rig in the Santos Basin exploration area where Tupi and Jupiter are located to the city of Macae in Rio de Janeiro state, where much of Petrobras’ offshore exploration effort is centered.

Halliburton referred questions to Petrobras, which said only that the computer equipment was under guard of a subcontractor it declined to name.

Petrobras in November announced the discovery of an ultra-deep Atlantic Ocean field called Tupi with as much of 8 billion barrels of light crude. The chief executive of Britain’s BG Group PLC, which also has a stake in the field, said this month that the field’s production could reach 1 million barrels of oil equivalent a day when fully developed.

The Brazilian company last month said it had discovered a huge natural gas reserve dubbed Jupiter off the coast of Rio de Janeiro that could be as big as the recently discovered Tupi oil field, but it did not provide detailed potential production figures.

Mr. Lula da Silva said he is reassured somewhat because Petrobras has backup copies of the information and warned against speculation that the case may be industrial espionage.

It’s better, he said, to await the outcome of the investigation, “not making insinuations, accusing or clearing anyone.”

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