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Petrobras: Brazil police arrest billionaire and senator in latest scandal twists

BTG Pactual chairman and CEO Andre Esteves (Image courtesy of Rio Negócios/Youtube)Andre Esteves, one of the richest men in Brazil, has been arrested in connection with the sprawling corruption probe of state-owned energy giant Petrobras.

Senator Delcidio Amaral was also detained last week in the probe.

Both are under temporary arrest duirng the investigation.

Police reportedly took documents from Esteves’ Rio de Janeiro home and from the São Paulo headquarters of BTG Pactual, the finance firm where he serves as CEO and is the controlling shareholder.

Esteves, 47, is worth an estimated $2.5 billion.

BTG Pactual was one of the initial investors in Sete Brasil, a state-owned rig company established to provide vessels to Petrobras.

Last month, Brazil’s Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry voted to indict former officers of Petrobras and Sete Brasil along with other agents and lobbyists for alleged graft.

BTG Pactual, the largest independent investment bank  in Latin America, confirmed Esteves’ arrest.

Former Petrobras director Pedro Barusco told a Brazilian court in June that a group of shipbuilding companies paid brides to win contracts with Sete Brasil.

Brazilian police also arrested senator Delcidio Amaral, a member of the ruling Workers Party, on suspicion of obstructing the Petrobras probe. Amaral also serves as chairman of the Senate’s economic affairs committee and is close to former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki said he authorized Amaral’s arrest after prosecutors provided evidence that the senator offered to help former Petrobras executive Nester Cerveró flee if he did not aide investigators.

In August, Cerveró was sentenced to 12 years and three months in prison for money laundering and corruption charges tied to a bribe he allegedly paid lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha.

Neither Esteves nor Amaral have been formally charged following their arrests last week.

Over 100 people have been arrested in connection with the probe, known as Operation Car Wash.

Brazilian prosecutors allege that Petrobras employees collaborated with other firms to inflate the cost of contracts and skimmed the excess funds. The scheme also allegedly included kickbacks, bribery, and money laundering.

Petrobras has defended itself against the allegations, claiming that it was also a victim of fraud.

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Nicolas Torres is a reporter for Petro Global News, where a version of this post first. appeared.

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