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By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Former Chief of Staff José Dirceu was arrested during the early morning hours on Monday, August 3rd, by Brazil’s Federal Police as part of the agency’s on-going investigation into the corruption scandal, Operação Lava Jato (Carwash). Dirceu was one of seven arrested this morning in the seventeenth phase of the inquiry.

Former Chief of Staff, José Dirceu had been released into house arrest, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Former Chief of Staff, José Dirceu had been released into house arrest, photo by Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/Agência Brasil.

Once President Lula’s main political advisor, and for many the most powerful man in Brazil’s government, Dirceu was arrested along with six others, including his brother, who is a partner in his consultancy firm.

According to daily O Globo, Brazilian authorities want to know if Dirceu’s firm had involvement with companies accused of bribing Petrobras executives.

More than 200 police officers took part in this phase of the investigation, and those arrested are now said to be waiting for judicial authorization to be flown to Curitiba, the center of the investigation.

Dirceu was Chief of Staff under Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s administration, leaving in 2005 after being accused of being the mastermind behind the vote-buying scheme that unfolded from 2003 to 2005 called ‘Mensalão.’ The landmark trial marked one of the first times that high-ranking party officers and politicians served prison sentences for corruption in Brazil.

Dirceu was convicted to seven years and eleven months and started to serve his sentence in 2013. In October 2014, Dirceu was granted the benefit of moving to house arrest. He was at his home in Brasília when he was arrested this morning accused of participating in the Lava Jato scheme.

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