Por: Alberto Silva

Senator and Banker Arrested for Attempting to Pervert Lava Jato Investigations

For the first time since democracy returned to Brazil in 1985, the Federal Police has arrested a serving senator. The Workers' Party (PT) leader in the Senate, Delcídio do Amaral, was arrested in a Brasília hotel on Wednesday morning and placed in preventive custody, accused of attempting to pervert the Operation Lava Jato investigations into corruption at Petrobras.

The courts also ordered the detention of André Esteves, the main partner at the bank BTG, for five days. Amaral’s custody does not have a specific limit.

Last night, Amaral’s colleagues in the Senate voted to uphold the decision to arrest him – following the rules defined by the Constitution – by 59 votes for to 13 against.

The judge Teori Zavascki alleges that Amaral offered a monthly payment of R$50,000 (US $13,400) in order to prevent ex-Petrobras director Nestor Cerveró from striking a plea bargain with prosecutors. Esteves is alleged to have guaranteed a further R$4 million (US $1.1 million) on top of that.

The plan, which would have involved Cerveró fleeing to Spain via Paraguay, was revealed by a recording made secretly by Bernardo, Cerveró’s son. The recording contains conversations in which Amaral participated, as well as the lawyer Edson Ribeiro, whose arrest has also been ordered

Cerveró, who was arrested initially in January, and is now serving a jail sentence in Curitiba, has gone ahead with the plea bargain. He has insisted that President Rousseff knew about the corruption scheme at Petrobras.

The explosive potential of the revelations Cerveró may yet make is of concern for the government. In a statement, the PT said that it had withdrawn its support for Amaral.

The recording that led to the arrest of Amaral and Esteves is of a conversation recorded in a Brasília hotel on the fourth of this month, of an hour and 35 minutes in duration. It exposes Amaral’s attempts to obstruct the Lava Jato investigations and influence the decisions of Supreme Court judges.

In the conversation, Amaral offers Bernardo Cerveró a monthly payment of R$50,000 to convince his father not to agree to a plea bargain.

Amaral wanted to prevent Cerveró from providing details to the courts about his alleged involvement in irregularities relating to the purchase of an oil refinery in Pasadena, in the United States. He also wanted to convince Cerveró to flee Brazil.

According to investigators, Esteves offered financial support to the Cerveró family, as well as a payment of R$4 million to his lawyer, Edson Ribeiro, who would later transfer the money to the family in exchange for Cerveró omitting the names of Amaral and Esteves from any statement to police.

Ribeiro’s arrest has also been ordered, but he has not been arrested as he is currently in the United States. Interpol will be notified.

In the conversation, Amaral also revealed the concern of the PMDB leadership with the Lava Jato investigations. He said that the vice-president Michel Temer spoke with the Supreme Court judge Gimar Mendes because “he is very concerned about [ex-Petrobras director Jorge] Zelada”, who was the PMDB’s choice as director. Zelada was arrested in July.

Amaral also mentioned by name the Supreme Court judges who he believes would be willing to vote for the release of those involved in the Lava Jato investigations who are currently in custody in Curitiba.

Translated by TOM GATEHOUSE

(Via agências)



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