Police arrest Brazilian top businessmen in Petrobras probe

Two top executives and 13 others arrested in bribery investigation at state-run oil company in Brazil

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Marcelo Odebrecht, head of Latin America's greatest engineering and construction company Odebrecht SA, was taken under custody on Friday, accused of initiating a $2.1 billion corruption scheme at semi-public oil company, Petrobras.

CEO of Andrade Gutierrez, Otavio Marques Azevedo, was also arrested as the investigation regarding a corruption scandal at Petrobras expands to top Brazilian business world.

Chief prosecutor, Carlos Fernando dos Santos Limas, talked as to the graft probe saying he had "no doubt" Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez led a “cartel" that overcharged Petrobras for work and passed surplus funds to politicians and administrators.

Odebrecht allegedly has close ties with former president Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, which may push the corruption scandal to enter the political arena of the governing Worker’s Party.

President Dilma Rousseff, who ran the board of Petrobras during Lula's presidency, denied knowledge of any corruption and pushed for a broad investigation.

Cameron Combs, a Latin America researcher, said the close relationship between Lula, Odebrecht and the CEO’s possible accusation is seen as a great risk.

Lula's institute, the Instituto Lula, denied any misconduct at the time giving no further comment.

Neither Rousseff nor Lula has been charged with such crime so far.

Odebrecht was the third-generation head of the private company. He played an important role in expanding the company's prestige throughout Africa, Latin America and the United States.

Marcelo Odebrecht’s lawyer did not answer further questions regarding the case and it is not known if Odebrecht or Azevedo will seek plea deals with prosecutors which the other 17 suspects have done.
The scandal hindered construction companies from doing business with Petrobras,  , including Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez. Some economists say the successive crises is contributing to Brazil's economic decline.
Brazil's Vice President Michel Temer said there "must have been a reason" to arrest the executives but that it was important to distinguish between the administrators and the companies as they are essential regarding economic purposes.

Federal police officer, Igor Romario de Paula also spoke regarding the investigation saying, “The objective of the operation is to bring a clear message that the law applies to everyone, no matter the size of the company, its place in society or its economic power.”

TRTWorld and agencies