By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The Federal Police in Brazil arrested former Petrobras director for the International Area as part of its on-going Lava Jato (Carwash Operation) operation yesterday (July 3rd). Officials say Jorge Zelada transferred more than €$11 million to Europe, money that authorities believe was part of the scheme of bribes to Petrobras executives for contracts with the oil giant.
“We have values and we have strong evidence that there were problems in his sector at Petrobras. The movement of resources abroad after the start of the Lava Jato operation indicates a money-laundering scheme,” said federal prosecutor Carlos Fernando Santos Lima, at a press conference in Curitiba on Thursday.
According to Lima, the fact that Zelada transferred the money from Switzerland to Monaco may indicate that the former director wanted to hide the illegal income. Lima noted that the volume of resources found in Zelada’s name is not compatible to the income received by the executive during the time he worked Petrobras.
The former Petrobras executive had been named by others involved in the mega bribery scheme as one of the directors who obtained illicit funds from construction companies and logistics firms in exchange for benefits in contracts.
With the arrest of Jorge Zelada, Brazil’s Federal Police have now arrested four former Petrobras directors in connection with the Lava Jato scheme: Nestor Cerveró, head of the International division before Zelada, Renato Duque, director of Services and Engineering and Paulo Roberto Costa, director for Refining and Supply. All have been charged with corruption, fraud, tax evasion, and money laundering.
The Lava-Jato operation made its first arrests in March 2014, after federal investigators uncovered links between former Petrobras director Paulo Roberto Costa and black-market money dealer, Alberto Youssef. Since then federal prosecutors have discovered that Petrobras executives received at least R$2.1 billion (US$677 million) in bribes and illicit funds from construction companies interested in multi-million dollar contracts with the oil giant.