SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A former official at state-controlled Petroleo Brasileiro SA, jailed as part of a corruption investigation in Brazil, has linked financier André Esteves to the payment of bribes to a ruling coalition politician, Valor Econômico newspaper said on Tuesday.
The executive, Nestor Cerveró, told prosecutors in the case known as Operation Car Wash that Esteves and his partner in a chain of fuel stations called Derivados do Brasil paid about 10 million reais ($2.6 million) in bribes to Senator Fernando Collor de Mello, Valor said, citing documents to which it had access.
The bribes were linked to a deal in which Derivados received 150 million reais to exclusively sell gasoline and fuels produced by Petrobras, as Petroleo is commonly known, Valor said. Cerveró, a former head of Petrobras’ international unit, testified on Nov. 19 as part of a plea bargain in the Car Wash case, Valor said.
Esteves, the founder and former chief executive officer of Grupo BTG Pactual SA, was arrested on Nov. 25 for allegedly seeking to obstruct Cerveró’s testimony and pursuit of a plea bargain. Esteves relinquished his executive duties at BTG Pactual and exited the holding that controls the bank after his pre-trial detention was extended for an indefinite period.
The bank has repeatedly said Derivados was a personal investment by Esteves and not linked to BTG Pactual’s proprietary position. In his testimony, Cerveró made no distinction between Esteves and BTG Pactual and did not say who negotiated the bribe in the transaction, according to Valor.
Traders said the apparent disconnection between Cerveró’s allegations and BTG Pactual bolstered the bank’s stock on Tuesday. BTG Pactual is down more than 50 percent since Esteves’ Nov. 25 arrest, on concern the allegations against the billionaire financier could ensnare the bank.
Units, a blend of voting and non-voting shares in BTG Pactual’s banking and participations divisions, rose for a third day, adding 3.7 percent to 14.62 reais.
Antonio Carlos de Almeida Castro, Esteves’s lawyer, denied that his client committed any wrongdoing. The lawyers for Collor de Mello, a former Brazilian president, and Cerveró could not immediately be reached for comment.
The police conducted 53 search-and-seizure raids across seven Brazilian states and the capital Brasilia earlier in the day as part of the Car Wash case.
Supreme Federal Court Justice Teori Zawascki gave the go-ahead for the searches as part of Car Wash - an inquiry into alleged payment of bribes for contracts at state-controlled firms, especially state-controlled Petrobras.
The homes of Lower House Speaker Eduardo Cunha and two cabinet ministers, widening the political scope of the investigation. Their lawyers did not comment.
The headquarters of Estre Ambiental, a company in which BTG Pactual has a minority stake, also were raided as part of the investigation, the company said in a statement. Estre was mentioned by former Petrobras director Paulo Roberto Costa, who got a plea bargain this year, as a company that paid bribes in exchange for contracts.
Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Additional reporting by Tatiana Bautzer in São Paulo; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott