Brazilian governor arrested for ‘collecting bribe’

Luiz Pezao, governor of Rio de Janeiro, a municipality in Brazil, was on Thursday arrested over allegations that he took bribes as part of the sprawling “Car Wash” graft probe.

Mr Pezao was accused of receiving bribes when he was vice governor of the Brazilian city under Sergio Cabral, who is currently in prison after being sentenced to a cumulative 180 years for corruption.

The Globo News television channel showed live footage of federal police at Pezao’s residence, where he was having breakfast at the time.

A statement from the general prosecutor’s office read: “The governor is part of the political nucleus of a criminal organization that, over the last few years, committed several crimes against the public administration, especially corruption and money laundering.”

Mr Pezao was reportedly transferred to a police headquarters in Rio.

The “Lava Jato” (Car Wash) probe is said to have kicked off in 2014, ensnaring politicians from nearly every party in corruption allegations mainly linked to Brazil’s state-owned oil company, Petrobras.

The police also raided the Guanabara Palace, headquarters of Rio de Janeiro’s government, searching for documents.

The superior court of justice issued the arrest warrant based on the confession of Carlos Miranda, a former Cabral associate, who cooperated in exchange for a sentence reduction.

According to Miranda’s testimony, Mr Pezao would have received a monthly payment of 150,000 reais (US$40,000) as well as end-of-the-year bonuses of up to one million reais.

The money would have been paid by companies and intermediaries bound by contracts with the Rio de Janeiro government during a period from 2007 to 2014.

In previous inquiries, Pezao had denied participating in the scheme.

The prosecutor’s office warned that if Mr Pezao remained free, he could hinder the recovery of misappropriated assets and eliminate assets illegally acquired.

Mr Pezao was elected governor in 2014 by the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement and his term is set to end at the end of 2018.