SAO PAULO – An ex-lawmaker who was the leader of Brazil’s former ruling Workers’ Party (PT) in the lower house of Congress was detained in Sao Paulo on Friday in a new phase of the sprawling, anti-corruption Lava Jato (Car Wash) probe.
Candido Vaccarezza was detained for alleging accepting kickbacks on contracts and taken to Curitiba by order of federal Judge Sergio Moro, who is heading up the Lava Jato probe from his office in that southern city.
The former lawmaker, who left the now-opposition PT days ago, is suspected of receiving $500,000 in bribes for illegally using his influence to help a foreign company obtain contracts with state oil company Petrobras.
Prosecutors say Vaccarezza – the PT’s top lawmaker in the lower house from 2010 to 2012, when two presidents from that party, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, were in office – led a group who benefited from the kickbacks.
They said some people convicted in the case had sent messages – intercepted by police – that used a code name to refer to the suspect.
Two new phases of Car Wash are being carried out on Friday on Moro’s orders in the cities of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Santos – “Abate,” which led to Vaccarezza being held for questioning; and “Sin fronteras,” which is investigating irregularities involving Petrobras and foreign shipyards.
The Car Wash probe, which initially focused on a bribes-for-inflated-contracts scheme centered on Petrobras but has expanded to include other state-run companies, has led to scores of convictions of politicians and business executives.