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Former Petrobras Manager Arrested for Swiss Bank Transfers

Former Petrobras executive, Renato Duque (L), is pictured at the Federal Police headquarter in Rio de Janeiro, March 16, 2015.
Former Petrobras executive, Renato Duque (L), is pictured at the Federal Police headquarter in Rio de Janeiro, March 16, 2015.

Police arrested a former Petrobras executive on Monday after prosecutors discovered large transfers from Swiss bank accounts he managed - the latest twist in a corruption probe implicating some of Brazil's top companies and political parties.

Former head of engineering and services Renato Duque, who had already been detained for three weeks late last year at the early stages of the Petrobras investigation widely referred to as "Operation Car Wash", was arrested by federal police at his house in Rio de Janeiro.

"Investigations showed million-dollar transfers from Switzerland to other countries," the federal prosecutors office said in a Twitter message announcing Duque's arrest.

The arrest warrant was issued after prosecutors discovered transfers of about 20 million euros between accounts he managed in Switzerland and Monaco, and other transfers to U.S. and Hong Kong banks, amounts that were "not compatible" with his earnings at Petrobras, formally known as Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

Duque's was one of six arrests being carried out by Brazil's federal police serving a total of 18 search and detain warrants in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo on charges that included bidding fraud.

The scandal's fallout has heaped political pressure on President Dilma Rousseff. On Sunday, it helped fuel massive street protests across Brazil against her administration.

It has also battered shares of Petrobras, as the company is commonly known, which are down 30 percent over the past year.

Prosecutors say engineering and construction firms paid bribes to win Petrobras contracts at premium rates. They then funneled a cut of the overcharged projects to executives, vendors and political parties, including Brazil's ruling Workers' Party.

Another former Petrobras executive jailed in the case, ex-head of refining and supply Paulo Roberto Costa, struck a plea bargain deal last year, providing information that has led to the investigation of dozens of executives and politicians.

The corruption probe has so far led to 40 indictments on racketeering, bribery and money-laundering charges. Those indicted include two former Petrobras managers and 23 executives from six of Brazil's leading engineering firms OAS , Camargo Correa, UTC Engenharia, Galvao Engenharia, Mendes Junior and Engevix, including board members and vice presidents of the companies.

Also under investigation by Brazilian authorities, though none of their executives have been indicted, are Odebrecht SA and Andrade Gutierrez. The companies have publicly denied any wrongdoing.

Prosecutors have asked the Supreme Court to investigate 34 sitting politicians, including the speakers of both houses of Congress, for allegedly receiving bribe money.

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