Brazil police arrest 15 in Sao Paulo highway probe

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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazilian authorities arrested 15 people on Thursday as part of an investigation into alleged corruption in highway contracts in the state of Sao Paulo, according to a statement from federal prosecutors and police.

One of the targets was Laurence Casagrande Lourenco, former head of state-run Dersa, the company in charge of Sao Paulo’s highways, court documents showed. Lourenco was the head of state-run utility Companhia Energetica de Sao Paulo SA, widely known as Cesp, until Thursday. However, the company said in a late afternoon statement that he had resigned.

He also served as transport and logistics secretary for former Sao Paulo Governor Geraldo Alckmin, now a centrist presidential candidate polling in the single-digits in recent surveys.

It could not be immediately determined if Lourenco is represented by an attorney. Cesp did not return a request for comment.

Prosecutors said in the statement that targets included former executives of Dersa, and executives of construction firms OAS SA [OAEP.UL] and Mendes Junior Engenharia SA.

Under the alleged scheme, Sao Paulo’s state government was over-billed more than 600 million reais ($158 million) for construction works on a major highway that rings the city of Sao Paulo, the capital of Sao Paulo state.

Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Leslie Adler and Lisa Shumaker