Hygo Energy names new CEO after predecessor resigned amid Brazil graft probe

(Reuters) - Hygo Energy Transition Ltd HYGO.O, a joint venture between Golar LNG GLNG.O and U.S. private equity firm Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners, has appointed Paul Hanrahan as chief executive officer after his predecessor, Eduardo Antonello, stepped down amid a Brazilian corruption investigation.

Golar made the announcement on Monday. The move is part of Golar’s effort to prevent the probe from disrupting expansion of liquefied natural gas (LNG) use in Brazil.

In the latest phase of Brazil's "Car Wash" corruption probe, two witnesses said the former Hygo CEO was part of a bribery scheme in 2011 when he worked at Seadrill Ltd SDRL.OL, a claim that Antonello has denied through his attorney.

Search warrants were executed based on the witness testimony. A representative for Antonello, who resigned on Sept. 29 and is now based in London, has said the search warrants were obtained on the basis of false testimony that was given to secure a plea bargain deal.

The corruption probe has led to the jailing of two former Brazilian presidents and hundreds of executives and politicians.

Police executed 31 search warrants hours before Hygo’s initial public offering (IPO) in New York, which was temporarily suspended. Search warrants included offices linked to Seadrill, Golar and Antonello.

U.S-listed Golar did not comment on Monday about the future of the IPO plans. Golar’s shares were down 5.1% in early afternoon Nasdaq trading.

Golar also said on Monday that Hygo and Norsk Hydro NHY.OL have mutually agreed to terminate a July memorandum of understanding for Hygo to supply LNG to the Alunorte alumina refinery in Brazil.

The termination will not change Golar’s plans to build an import LNG terminal in Barcarena in North Brazil, with construction expected to start shortly. Golar is betting on the super-chilled gas as a substitute for diesel, fuel oil and LPG in Brazil.

The current phase of the "Car Wash" probe focuses on contracts worth $2.7 billion signed between Brazil's state-controlled oil firm Petrobras PETR4.SA and Malaysia's Sapura Energy Bhd SAEN.KL group in 2011.

Sapura's affiliate in Brazil was formed in 2011 as a joint venture between offshore oil rig company Seadrill and Sapura Energy SAEN.KL.

Antonello worked for Seadrill at the time the Sapura joint venture was formed and was responsible for establishing the company’s Brazilian operations.

Reporting by Arunima Kumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Cynthia Osterman