Former Petrobras CEO Aldemir Bendine Arrested in Corruption Probe -- Update

By Luciana Magalhaes Features Dow Jones Newswires

SÃO PAULO -- Brazilian federal police Thursday arrested a former chief executive of two of the country's largest state-run companies as part of a widespread corruption investigation.

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Aldemir Bendine, who headed oil firm Petróleo Brasileiro SA and before that Banco do Brasil, was taken into custody for allegedly requesting bribes from construction giant Odebrecht SA, prosecutors said. He had been under investigation for some months.

While at Banco do Brasil, which he ran from 2009 to 2015, Mr. Bendine allegedly requested 17 million reais ($5.4 million) in bribes to allow a rollover of a loan at one of Odebrecht's units, prosectors said. Authorities said they have no evidence the first payment was made.

Just before taking the helm at Petrobras, of which he was CEO from 2015 to 2016, Mr. Bendine requested a 3 million reais payment from Odebrecht and received it in three installments of 1 million each, according to prosecutors.

Pierpaolo Cruz Bottini, Mr. Bendine's attorney, said late Thursday that his client denies any wrongdoing. "He never solicited or received any bribes," Mr. Bottini said in a telephone interview. The attorney also denied that his client, who holds Brazilian and Italian citizenship, was planning to flee the country.

According to prosecutors, Mr. Bendine had a ticket to fly to Portugal on Friday. "He was going with his family, it was a leisure trip," Mr. Bottini said.

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The arrest was the first of a former CEO of Petrobras, which has been at the center of a massive bid-rigging and bribery investigation for more than a decade. Mr. Bendine took the helm of the company after the scandal had become public, as part of a government plan to put Petrobras on the right track.

Odebrecht signed an anticorruption settlement in December with authorities in Brazil, the U.S. and Switzerland, agreeing to pay billions in fines and admitting to violating foreign bribery laws. Its executives and former officials have been cooperating with investigators.

Paul Kiernan contributed to this article.

Write to Luciana Magalhaes at Luciana.Magalhaes@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 27, 2017 19:54 ET (23:54 GMT)