Sat | Jan 20, 2018

Ex-Rio governor snared in sweeping Brazilian graft probe

Published:Friday | November 18, 2016 | 12:00 AM

A former governor of Rio de Janeiro state who had long been dogged by corruption allegations was arrested at his home Thursday, accused of receiving bribes and laundering money in a colossal graft probe roiling Brazil.

Federal police arrested Sergio Cabral in a morning raid that also snared several others connected to the former governor's 2007-2014 administration.

Prosecutors said Cabral received as much as 500,000 Brazilian reals (US$156,000) from several companies in exchange for help getting building contracts. In total, Cabral received tens of millions of dollars in a scheme that included laundering money via the writing of fake contracts and buying luxury goods, according to investigators.

"This case shows the overwhelming effects of corruption," said Athayde Ribeiro Costa, a lead prosecutor in the case, during a press conference. "Society suffers greatly from it."

Cabral is the latest top politician to be arrested in a massive kickback scheme connected to the state oil company Petrobras.

Prosecutors allege that more than US$2 billion in bribes were paid in exchange for building contracts and favourable terms over a decade.

Dozens of politicians and top businessmen have been charged in the scheme. Several have been jailed.

Long before the so-called 'Car Wash' investigation was launched a few years ago, Cabral was repeatedly accused of wrongdoing. In 2014, he resigned after large street protests in a movement that Cariocas, as Rio residents are known, called 'Occupy Cabral'.

Detractors accused him of overseeing shady construction deals in Rio, of using state helicopters for personal trips and of allowing military police to use brutal tactics.

Then Vice-Governor Luiz Fernando Pezao took over, and was later re-elected. Today, Pezao and the state are facing a major fiscal crisis that has kept thousands of public employees from being paid.

- AP