Brazil police arrest former finance minister in Petrobras probe

Dhaka,  Monday,   2016-09-22
Published : 22 Sep 2016, 20:53:08

Brazil police arrest former finance minister in Petrobras probe

Brazilian police arrested former Finance Minister Guido Mantega on Thursday as a sweeping corruption investigation closed in on the inner circle of the leftist Workers Party leaders who ran the country for 13 years, reports Reuters.

Federal police said in a statement they took Mantega into custody at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo. A source close to the former finance minister said he was there due to surgery on his wife.

Brazil's longest-serving finance minister of the past 70 years, Mantega also served as chairman of Petroleo Brasiliero, or Petrobras, the state-run oil company at the heart of an enormous political kickback scandal.

His arrest comes just two days after a judge decided to put former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on trial for allegedly accepting more than $1 million in bribes from an engineering firm in the Petrobras scandal.

Mantega served as finance minister for almost nine years under Lula and the recently impeached former President Dilma Rousseff, helping steer Latin America's largest economy through boom and bust at the height of Workers Party rule.

Attorneys for Mantega did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Police executed warrants for eight arrests and 32 search and seizure operations in five states and the capital Brasilia on Thursday, according a statement from prosecutors.

It said they were investigating the former minister and engineering groups Mendes Junior and OSX Construção Naval SA, part of a commodities empire built by former billionaire Eike Batista.

Police named the latest phase of the sweeping two-year-old Petrobras probe "Operation X Files" in a reference to the letter X that Batista included in the name of his oil drilling, mining, shipbuilding and logistics companies.

Prosecutors said Batista had testified to a conversation in November 2012 in which Mantega requested a payment of five million reais, or about $2.5 million at the time, to benefit the Workers Party.

Batista eventually made an overseas payment of $2.35 million to marketing executives previously tied to money laundering operations in the investigation, according to prosecutors.

Press representatives for OSX and Mendes Junior could not immediately be reached for comment.

- TS

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