Rousseff ex-minister arrested in Brazil graft probe

Former Brazilian communications minister Paulo Bernardo (pictured here in 2014) was arrested in connection with an investigation into corruption, on June 23, 2016.
Former Brazilian communications minister Paulo Bernardo (pictured here in 2014) was arrested in connection with an investigation into corruption, on June 23, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

SAO PAULO (AFP, REUTERS) - A top ex-minister of Brazil's suspended president Dilma Rousseff became the latest official to get arrested in a sprawling corruption probe on Thursday (June 23), authorities said.

Police also searched the headquarters of Rousseff's Workers Party in Sao Paulo in one of a series of raids across five states in the country.

In the capital Brasilia, they arrested Paulo Bernardo, Rousseff's former communications minister, the state prosecution service said in a statement.

He was wanted in connection with the paying of US$30 million (S$40 million) worth of bribes to public officials, it said.

Investigators also said that Bernardo received more than 7 million reais (S$2.8 million) in kickbacks. The Workers Party also benefited from the scheme, police said at a news conference.

Bernardo was also planning minister under Rousseff's predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The raids were part of a probe into corruption at state oil firm Petrobras involving kickbacks which has netted numerous officials.

The operation in Sao Paulo, instead of Curitiba - where most of the recent anti-graft crusade has taken place, showed the fight spreading as police and prosecutors learn from Curitiba's successful methods, investigators said.

"Today it was proven that investigations will continue no matter where they are," prosecutor Andrey Mendonca said.

The house of Senator Gleisi Hoffmann, Bernardo's wife and another longtime senior official from the Workers Party, was also raided, as part of the investigations, and former social security minister Carlos Gabas was detained for questioning

Rousseff was suspended last month to face an impeachment trial over separate allegations of fiddling government accounts.

She was replaced pending her trial by vice-president Michel Temer. Three of his ministers have since stepped down over corruption allegations.

The Senate is expected to make a final decision on whether to impeach Rousseff in mid-August, during the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.