Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian police said Wednesday they have arrested a top former executive of scandal-plagued state oil firm Petrobras, on suspicion of money laundering and graft.
Former international affairs director Nestor Cervero was placed in preventive custody after flying into Rio`s international airport from London. He was transferred to the southern city of Curitiba, where prosecutors are investigating the case.
Cervero is one of 39 people under investigation in a massive scandal in which dozens of politicians, mainly government allies, allegedly benefitted from hundreds of millions of dollars of sweeteners from inflated Petrobras contracts.
Police estimate the kickbacks totaled some $3.8 billion.
The case which has stunned the political establishment and battered Brazil`s reputation as a place to do business while hitting Petrobras` share price.
A statement from state prosecutors said Cervero was implicated in "new illicit acts concerning crimes of passive corruption and money laundering."
He is accused of passing dishonestly obtained money and other assets to family members.
Cervero`s lawyer, Edson Ribeiro, questioned the case against his client.
"I am unaware of the basis for his preventive detention which seems strange to me as he had already agreed with the justice ministry in Rio de Janeiro to give a statement on Thursday," Ribeiro told broadcaster Globo.
A fellow former Petrobras director, Paulo Roberto Costa, who is also in jail, has said dozens of politicians benefited from the kickbacks over a decade.
Costa claims companies won inflated contracts and passed the surcharges to intermediaries who drew up bogus contracts, services and consultancy services using front companies.
As yet, no politicians suspected of receiving the kickbacks have been named.
President Dilma Rousseff chaired Petrobras from 2003 to 2010, largely coinciding with the period the kickbacks were being taken. She denies any knowledge of the scheme.