5 MIN. DE LECTURA
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By Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Tatiana Bautzer
SAO PAULO, Nov 30 (Reuters) - Brazilian financier André Esteves resigned as chief executive and chairman of Grupo BTG Pactual SA late on Sunday after he was jailed as part of a corruption probe rapidly ensnaring Latin America's largest independent investment bank.
Prosecutors are preparing to file charges against the billionaire dealmaker, who they suspect, along with a Brazilian senator, of trying to obstruct a long-running investigation into graft at state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras.
Esteves, through his lawyer, has denied the allegations.
In a fresh twist to the near two-year long probe, Brazilian newspapers said police found documents allegedly linking BTG Pactual to the payment of bribes to ruling coalition lawmakers.
It is the first time the bank has been directly implicated in the bribery scandal and the newspapers said prosecutors used the documents to persuade the country's Supreme Court to extend Esteves' detention.
The documents contained information alleging that BTG Pactual paid 45 million reais ($11.7 million) to Eduardo Cunha, speaker of the lower house of Congress, in exchange for the passage of legislation favoring the bank, the newspapers said.
BTG Pactual denied the payments in a statement on Sunday and pledged to cooperate with authorities.
A source familiar with the matter said the revelations and the extension of Esteves' detention convinced him and his business partners that he had to resign.
Esteves still owns 28.8 percent of the bank and his stake includes a so-called golden share which gives him veto rights on any board decisions.
BTG Pactual named two founding partners, Roberto Saloutti and Marcelo Kalim, currently the bank's chief operating officer and chief financial officer, respectively, as co-CEOs.
Persio Arida, who was named acting CEO after Esteves' arrest on Wednesday, is now chairman, with Huw Jenkins, head of the bank's international arm, becoming vice chairman.
BTG Pactual has about 70 partners, including Esteves, who control a combined 80 percent of the bank's capital, according to bank data. The new co-CEOs Kalim and Saloutti, each have about 5.5 percent.
The main partners, a group of seven executives including Kalim, Saloutti and Jenkins with whom Esteves founded the bank in 2008, are considering buying their former leader out, the source said, adding that Esteves' stake is currently valued at 6.05 billion reais.
While Esteves sat in a jail cell in the Bangu VIII prison north of Rio de Janeiro, the bank's main partners gathered at the bank's headquarters in São Paulo's Faria Lima financial district on Sunday to finalize the sale of a 12 percent stake in Rede D'Or São Luiz SA, Brazil's largest hospital chain, to Singapore's sovereign wealth fund GIC Pte Ltd.
The stake will be sold for almost 2.5 billion reais, a source directly involved in the deal told Reuters. The bank had been negotiating the Rede D'Or deal since August but Esteves' arrest sped up talks, two other sources said.
GIC paid 3.3 billion reais for a 16 percent stake of Rede D'Or in May.
The new deal could help shore up BTG Pactual's balance sheet after Esteves' arrest prompted clients to pull over $1 billion in investments held at the bank's asset management division.
His detention sent the bank's shares and bonds skidding as investors fretted about its ability to thrive in his absence.
Rating agencies Moody's Investors Service and Fitch Ratings warned of a possible rating downgrade.
Heavily dependent on short-term market funding and with about 55 percent of its banking arm's funding due to be refinanced over the next 90 days, BTG Pactual has sought to assure clients that it is operating normally.
BTG Pactual's proprietary investments unit also owns over two dozen companies, some of them in the middle of corporate reorganizations and requiring capital injections, like drugstore chain Brasil Pharma SA and oil drilling rig producer Sete Brasil Participações SA.
Another source with direct knowledge of the bank's strategy said BTG Pactual has stopped offering new loans. Until Friday afternoon, external funding remained available and stable, said the same source.
In an e-mailed letter to clients and trading partners on Friday, Arida said the bank was not a target of the investigation.
$1 = 3.84 Brazilian reais Additional reporting by Roberto Samora in São Paulo and Jeb Blount in Rio de Janeiro; Writing by Carmel Crimmins; Editing by Kieran Murray