Brazilian officials said petty theft and not corporate espionage was responsible for the disappearance of computers with highly sensitive information on recently discovered oilfields, which could make Brazil a hydrocarbons powerhouse.
When computers and hard disks with information about the newly discovered Tupi and Jupiter oil fields off Brazil's eastern coast vanished earlier this month, allegedly in transit from an offshore rig, it jolted the oil industry and alarmed even Brazilian President, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Late this week however police said it had solved the mysterious disappearance.
"They didn't have the slightest idea of what they had," federal police inspector Valdinho Jacinto Caetano said.
Four security guards who worked at the port of Macaé, a coastal city in Rio de Janeiro state, have been arrested, and police recovered laptops and hard drives taken from state oil company Petrobras.
According to primary information from Petrobras the Tupi field in the Atlantic Ocean has as much as 8 billion barrels of light crude, and the Jupiter field off the coast of Rio could be just as big.
When the news broke out President Lula said the computers contained "state secrets."
The Brazilian Federal Police said the equipment was stolen from Houston-based oil services company Halliburton as it was being transported from an offshore rig to the city of Macaé, but later officials said the theft occurred at the port and made no mention of Halliburton.
The guards were employees of a security company hired by Petrobras to protect the port, Caetano said.
They had been carrying out small thefts since September that went unnoticed until the computers disappeared, Caetano said. "This was a common crime," he said.
The guards, after realizing what had happened, panicked and destroyed some of the stolen loot, including a hard drive and monitor, Caetano said.