RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil’s Federal Police began making arrests Tuesday as part of an investigation of corruption involving bus company owners and politicians in Rio de Janeiro state.
The probe, like so many others in Brazil these days, is an offshoot of the massive case centered on corruption at state-owned oil giant Petrobras.
Arrest warrants were issued for 45 people, including bus industry executive Jacob Barata Filho and Rio state assembly speaker Jorge Picciani, who was taken to the regional Federal Police headquarters to give a statement.
Among the others facing charges are Lelis Teixeira, former head of the state bus operators federation, Fetransport.
Police also searched the offices of assembly members Paulo Melo and Edson Albertassi, who, like Picciani, belong to the ruling PMDB party.
Two top aides to Melo were taken into custody.
This is the largest anti-corruption in the state since the arrest last year of former Rio Gov. Sergio Cabral on charges that he embezzled millions of dollars while in office.
Prosecutors say that Cabral, also of the PMDB, created the transportation corruption ring back in the 1990s, when he was speaker of the state assembly, and later handed over management of the scheme to Melo and Picciani.
Lawmakers took bribes from Fetransport and from individual firms in exchange for passing legislation that favored the interests of the bus owners, prosecutors allege.
Barata Filho – son of Jacob Barata, owner of the state’s largest bus fleet – and Teixeira were arrested in July on similar charges, but subsequently released on the order of Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes, who earlier presided over his niece’s marriage to Barata Filho.