Brazil’s highest court, on Wednesday, ordered [Reuters report] the arrest of André Esteves [official profile], the chief executive of the country’s largest investment bank, and that of Delcídio do Amaral, a powerful senator of the country’s ruling party. Both individuals are accused of obstructing the course of the investigation [BBC News report] into bribery and corruption affiliated with Petrobras [official website], a state-run oil company. The prosecutors presented a taped conversation to Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki in which Amaral appeared to offer Nestor Cervero, former head of Petrobras, an escape path to Europe in exchange for his promise not to disclose any evidence concerning himself and Esteves. Cervero himself was convicted and sentenced to 12 years in prison for corruption and money laundering in the Petrobras scandal. Prosecutors have further alleged that Amaral offered to pay Cervero a monthly stipend financed by Esteves. The arrests drove share prices down by nearly 40% causing investors to withdraw funds in a hurry from Esteves’ bank, BTG Pactual [corporate website].
The arrest of these two individuals have now brought the arrest count in the two-year Petrobras investigation to over 100 involving about 50 politicians including the chief of staff under Brazil’s former President Jose Dirceu, former speaker of the house Eduardo Cunha [JURIST report], and the former President himself Fernando Collor de Mellon [Britannica profile] in various kickback schemes. Prosecutors in the Petrobras investigation allege that businesses paid a total of over USD $2 billion [JURIST report] to obtain Petrobras contracts, which they then exploited by running up costs and delaying completion. Attempts to impeach [JURIST Report] the current President, and former chairwoman of Petrobras, Dilma Rousseff [BBC Profile] were also made last month, but the parliamentary commission found no proof [TeleSUR report] implicating her in the Petrobras scandal. The arrest of Amaral have renewed the vigor to implicate Rousseff and is inflicting tremendous pressure on her party.