Brazil police hold top Rio lawmaker, seek court members in probe

Jorge Picciani, the speaker of the Rio de Janeiro State Legislature arrives at the Federal Police headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil March 29, 2017. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian federal police on Wednesday detained Jorge Picciani, the speaker of the Rio de Janeiro state legislature, for questioning and were carrying out arrest warrants against five members of the state audit court in a corruption probe, a source involved in the operation said.

In a statement, police confirmed that a number of state court auditors and legislators were being sought in connection with a suspected graft scheme, without specifying the targets.

It added the operation was part of a sweep executing more than 43 arrest and search seizure warrants.

The warrants are part of a probe into alleged embezzlement of public funds by government officials, according to the statement.

The raids, conducted mostly in the city of Rio de Janeiro but also in neighboring towns of Duque de Caxias and São João do Meriti, stem from information obtained in plea bargain agreements with two of the people involved, it said.

The investigation is the latest probe ensnaring senior members of the Brazilian government and high-ranking executives in corruption probes over the last three years.

State assembly speaker Picciani is the father of current Sports Minister Leonardo Picciani.

Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Bruno Federowski; Editing by Catherine Evans and W Simon