SAO PAULO – Sen. Humberto Costa, the governing Workers Party, or PT, leader in the Brazilian Senate and a former health minister, was one of the beneficiaries of a scheme to channel funds from state-controlled oil giant Petrobras to politicians, press reports said Sunday, citing one of the individuals charged in the case.
Costa received 1 million reais ($396,982) for his senatorial campaign in 2010 that came from “commissions” paid by construction companies that signed contracts with Petrobras, the O Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper said.
The information was provided by Petrobras’s jailed former refineries and supply director, Paulo Roberto Costa, who was fired in 2012 is under house arrest in Rio de Janeiro.
The former executive, who has implicated dozens of Brazilian politicians in the scandal as part of a plea-bargain deal with prosecutors, said the money was given to Humberto Costa’s campaign by Mario Barbosa Beltrao, a childhood friend of the senator and president of the Pernambuco State Business Association, or Assimpra.
Earlier this month, police arrested a former Petrobras director and 19 other suspects, including nine construction and engineering firm executives, as part of an investigation into the alleged multi-billion-dollar kickback scheme.
The scandal was a key issue in Brazil’s recent presidential election, in which incumbent Dilma Rousseff – who served as chair of Petrobras’s board between 2003 and 2010 – won a second term in office.
As part of the extensive operation on Nov. 14, the Federal Police detained Renato Duque, a former director of engineering and services for Petrobras who was fired in 2012, in Rio de Janeiro.
Petrobras was allegedly at the center of a 10-billion-reais (some $3.85 billion) money-laundering and overbilling scheme and is the focal point of the Federal Police’s “Lava Jato” (Car Wash) operation launched in March.
Two executives of engineering firm Toyo Setal Empreendimentos are aiding the investigation as part of a plea-bargain agreement.