Brazil police arrest government Senate leader

AP News
Posted: Nov 25, 2015 6:57 PM
Brazil police arrest government Senate leader

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazilian police on Wednesday arrested the government's leader in the Senate for allegedly obstructing the investigation into a corruption scandal at state-owned oil company Petrobras.

Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki authorized the arrest of Sen. Delcidio do Amaral of the governing Worker's Party after examining evidence allegedly showing he interfered in the investigation of the widespread corruption-kickback scheme at the oil company.

Under Brazilian law, the Supreme Court must 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.

A majority of the 81-seat Senate also had to approve the arrest, and the body voted 59-13 late Wednesday to keep Amaral behind bars.

The vote means Amaral could remain in prison for an undetermined amount of time. Only Brazil's Supreme Court can now order his release, should it determine he does not represent a threat to the investigation.

The public prosecutors' office has 15 days to present the Supreme Court with formal charges against the senator.

Amaral's lawyer, Mauricio Leite, could not be reached for comment.

The federal police also arrested Andre Esteves, the CEO of the investment bank Grupo BTG Pactual. He's accused of obstructing the Petrobras corruption scandal.

Prosecutors have alleged that over $2 billion was paid in bribes by businessmen to obtain Petrobras contracts, projects that then subsequently ballooned in costs. Investigators also have said that some of the money made its way to the Workers' Party.