RIO DE JANEIRO – A former chief executive officer of Brazilian state oil company Petrobras was arrested on Thursday in a new phase of the Car Wash bribes-for-inflated contracts probe, authorities said.
Aldemir Bendine, who was at the helm of Petrobras between 2015 and 2016 and of Brazil’s second-largest state company, Banco do Brasil, from 2009 to 2015, is accused of demanding a 3-million-reais ($937,500) bribe from construction giant Odebrecht shortly before taking over as the state oil company’s CEO.
He was detained by Federal Police officers in Sorocaba, a municipality in the interior of the southeastern state of Sao Paulo.
Two other people close to Bendine were arrested for allegedly serving as middlemen for purported bribes paid to the ex-Petrobras chief.
Bendine was arrested based on the plea-bargain testimony of former Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht, who was sentenced last year to 19 years in prison for corruption, money laundering and criminal conspiracy.
“There’s evidence that on the eve of becoming CEO of Petrobras, on Feb. 6, 2015, Aldemir Bendine and one of his financial operators demanded a bribe from Marcelo Odebrecht,” the Attorney General’s Office said in a statement.
In exchange for the bribe, Odebrecht was offered assurances that the construction giant would not be harmed by the corruption investigation centered on the state oil company, it added.
The so-called Car Wash probe into a $2 billion bribes-for-inflated contracts scheme at Petrobras began three years ago and has led to prison terms for ex-executives of several major Brazilian construction companies, dozens of former Petrobras officials and prominent politicians who benefited from the graft.
Prosecutors say construction companies eager to win Petrobras contracts paid millions of dollars in bribes that were divided among executives at the oil company and politicians.
Bendine, who became CEO of Petrobras after the corruption scandal broke, also was accused by Odebrecht of requesting a 17-million-reais ($5.3 million) bribe in exchange for the rollover of a Banco do Brasil loan to a unit of the Salvador, Brazil-based construction group.
The former construction company CEO told prosecutors Odebrecht did not make the payment.