By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Federal police in Brazil launched the 39th phase of Operação Lava Jato (Carwash) on Tuesday, March 28th, issuing five search warrants and an arrest warrant. Police say they have arrested former Petrobras manager Roberto Gonçalves in Boa Vista, Roraima, this morning.
Roberto Gonçalves succeeded Pedro Barusco in his position as Services Manager at Petrobras and also, claim investigators, in the corruption scheme.
“In the succession of the position the ‘corruption position’ was also passed down,” stated sheriff Roberson Pozzobon during a morning press conference to announce the new Lava Jato phase.
Investigators have named Gonçalves as beneficiary of several payments made in clandestine accounts abroad by contractors. The former manager is believed to have off-shore accounts in China, Switzerland and the Bahamas.
“In one of the five foreign accounts we found that in 2011 he (Gonçalves) had already US$3 million from illicit dealings,” said prosecutor Julio Noronha during the press conference.
According to officials the focus of this phase of the investigation was on operators in the financial market who helped those already investigated in the Lava Jato graft.
A federal police press release detailed a brokerage house is suspected to have carried out the movement of funds of illicit origin to enable undue payments of employees and Petrobras executives.
The Lava Jato investigation was launched in March of 2014 with the objective of dismantling a small criminal organization that was involved in money laundering schemes and other crimes against Brazil’s financial system.
What they found was a billion-dollar graft which has spilled over into the Brazilian political sphere, and has caused multi-million dollar losses to the country’s economy.
Brazilian prosecutors say that Petrobras executives received at least R$2.1 billion in bribes and illicit funds from companies interested in multi-million dollar contracts with the oil giant.