Brazil police arrest former Petrobras CEO Bendine in graft probe

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian federal police on Thursday arrested former Petrobras Chief Executive Officer Aldemir Bendine on suspicion he received large bribes from construction conglomerate Odebrecht. [

Petroleo Brasileiro S.A. (PETROBRAS) CEO Aldemir Bendine smiles during a news conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, March 21, 2016. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

In a statement, the prosecutor-general’s office said police served three arrest warrants and executed 11 search and seizure orders as part of the so-called Car Wash investigation, which has ensnared senior executives and high-ranking politicians in Latin America’s largest economy.

Legal representatives for Bendine were not immediately available to comment.

Bendine served as CEO of Petróleo Brasileiro SA, as the state-controlled oil company is formally known, between 2015 and 2016 and as CEO of state-owned lender Banco do Brasil SA from 2009 to 2015.

According to the statement, Bendine sought 17 million reais in bribes when he led Banco do Brasil to authorize the rollover of a loan to an Odebrecht [ODBES.UL] unit. However, the company refused to pay him.

Shortly before taking over as head of Petrobras, Bendine demanded payments of three million reais from Odebrecht so that it “would not be damaged by Petrobras” after the Car Wash” corruption scandal broke three years ago, it added.

The company paid Bendine the three million reais in 2015, the prosecutor general’s office said. It did not specify what kind of “damage” Bendine purportedly offered to head off.

Separately, Bendine received a further three million reais in 2017 from Odebrecht for unidentified reasons after he left Petrobras, according to the statement.

The arrest is the latest police operation stemming from plea deals signed by executives from Odebrecht, which admitted in a settlement with U.S. and Brazilian prosecutors to paying bribes across 12 countries to win contracts.

($1 = 3.1389 reais)

Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Bruno Federowski; Editing by Gareth Jones and W Simon