Brazil govt lobbies Supreme Court ahead of key Petrobras ruling

BRASILIA, Sept 29 (Reuters) - The government of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is lobbying the Supreme Court ahead of a ruling expected Wednesday on whether the privatization of refineries owned by state-run oil company Petrobras requires Congressional approval.

Three sources close to the court told Reuters the justices were expected to rule narrowly in the government’s favor, allowing the privatizations to move forward without the legislature’s approval. Congress has requested the court to block the transactions.

The eight refineries that Petrobras is seeking to privatize represent roughly 50% of Brazil’s refining capacity. Their sales are vital to the oil producer’s divestment plan.

The expected favorable ruling comes as members of Bolsonaro’s cabinet seek to sway justices on the court.

On Tuesday, Mines and Energy Minister Bento Albuquerque and Solicitor General José Levi Mello spoke by video conference with Justice Dias Toffoli, according to the judge’s official calendar.

The two cabinet members are set to meet with Justice Rosa Weber on Wednesday.

Last week, Petrobras CEO Roberto Castello Branco met with Justice Luiz Fux, according to one of the sources.

The Supreme Court’s press office said the ruling is set for Wednesday, but declined to comment further.

Bolsonaro’s press representatives, the Solicitor General’s Office and the Mines and Energy Ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

The court had previously sought to hold a “virtual judgment” on the matter, with justices voting one by one over a period of days, but that was scrapped last week in favor of an in-person ruling.

Three justices had voted against the privatizations in the virtual session, but their decisions will be nullified and they will be able to cast their votes anew in the Supreme Court plenary starting Wednesday.

Reporting by Ricardo Brito, writing by Jake Spring; Editing by Stephen Coates