Brazil prosecutors say politicians were paid off monthly

AP News
Posted: Mar 07, 2015 3:10 PM
Brazil prosecutors say politicians were paid off monthly

SAO PAULO (AP) — Politicians allegedly involved in the kickback-corruption scandal at the state-run energy company received monthly payments from construction and engineering firms and transferred part of the money to the ruling Workers' Party and its allies, Brazil's Federal Prosecutor's office said in a statement.

In the statement released Friday night, the prosecutor's office said that every month, the politicians received a percentage of the value of each contract signed with Petrobras.

Earlier Friday, the Supreme Court ruled that 54 top politicians be investigated for alleged ties to the kickback scheme. That number is expected to expand as federal prosecutors dig into political ties to the operation in which at least $800 million in bribes and other funds were allegedly paid by big construction and engineering firms in return for inflated contracts with Petrobras.

Under Brazilian law, the Supreme Court has to approve any investigation of legislators or top officials in the executive branch. Any criminal charges or trials of such figures must also must be approved and judged by the top court.

Black market money dealers who struck pleas bargain deals with prosecutors have said they helped move the money around along with former top Petrobras executives who acknowledged raking in hundreds of millions in bribes. That testimony paved the way for investigations into politicians who allegedly benefited.

Among those to be investigated are former president and current senator Fernando Collor, who was forced from the presidency by a corruption scandal in 1992 before making a political comeback in recent years.

Also to be investigated are Senate leader Renan Calheiros and Eduardo Cunha, who heads the lower house. Both are members of the powerful Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, part of the governing coalition led by the Workers' Party.

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Calheiros said in a brief statement that he would provide all the information the courts request.

Cunha said allegations he was involved were politically motivated and that he would "easily dismantle them."

"My mind is at ease because he who owes anything has nothing to fear," he told the Estado de S. Paulo newspaper's Broadcast Politico news service. "I have no problem to face facing any kind of investigation."

The investigation and any possible trials will take years to play out, but the action throws the second term of President Dilma Rousseff into further disarray as she faces political and economic crises. She is not being investigated, although she was chairwoman of the Petrobras board for several years as the kickback scheme played out.