April 20, 2017 / 4:37 PM / 3 months ago

Brazil's Estácio suspects former CEO involved in email leak scandal

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SAO PAULO, April 20 (Reuters) - Estácio Participações SA suspects former Chief Executive Officer Rogério Melzi was involved in an email leak scandal that added risks to the Brazilian for-profit education firm's takeover by larger rival Kroton Educacional SA.

According to a police record filed on Tuesday and obtained by Reuters, Estácio said there is evidence that two of its former information technology employees accessed a computer used by current CEO Pedro Thompson.

Estácio said Melzi, who left the company last June, might have been involved in an effort to obtain information from Thompson's computer and participated in the leak of several emails from around November discussing the Kroton-Estácio deal, the record showed.

Contacted by Reuters, Melzi declined to comment on the accusations and said that Estácio did not reach out to him. The media office of Estácio also declined to comment.

Content from the emails suggested Thompson and an Estácio lawyer discussed ways to undo the deal. The disclosure of the emails fanned tension between management and shareholders of both companies ahead of antitrust analysis of the transaction.

When a local newspaper revealed the content of Thompson's emails in March, Estácio opened an internal investigation on the matter. The probe, conducted by ICTS Global Serviços, found no evidence of wrongdoing by Thompson or other Estácio staff.

Kroton's takeover of Estácio, if approved, could create the world's largest education company by market value and number of students.

Shares of Estácio gained 1.8 percent to 16.61 reais on Thursday, extending year-to-date gains to 7 percent. Kroton added 1.3 percent to 14.21 reais. (Writing by Tatiana Bautzer and Bruno Federowski; Editing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Dan Grebler)

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