SAO PAULO, Dec 15 (Reuters) - A former official at state-run Petroleo Brasileiro SA, jailed as part of a corruption probe in Brazil, has linked financier André Esteves to the payment of bribes to a ruling coalition politician, Valor Econômico newspaper said on Tuesday.
The executive, Nestor Cerveró, told prosecutors in the case known as “Operation Car Wash” that Esteves and his partner in a chain of fuel stations called Derivados do Brasil paid about 10 million reais ($2.6 million) in bribes to Senator Fernando Collor de Mello, Valor said, citing documents to which it had access.
The bribes were linked to a deal in which Derivados received 150 million reais to exclusively sell gasoline and fuels produced by Petrobras, as Petroleo is commonly known, Valor said.
Cerveró, a former head of Petrobras’ international division who is negotiating a plea bargain with prosecutors in the Car Wash case, testified on Nov. 19, Valor said.
Esteves, the founder and former chief executive officer of Grupo BTG Pactual SA, was arrested on Nov. 25 for alledgedly seeking to obstruct Cerveró’s testimony and pursuit of a plea bargain.
Esteves reliquished his executive duties at BTG Pactual and exited the holding that controls the bank after prosecutors extended his pre-trial detention for an indefinite period.
Shares and bonds of BTG Pactual have slumped after Esteves’ arrest, on concern the allegations against the billionaire financier could ensnare the bank.
The bank has repeatedly said Derivados was a personal investment by Esteves and not linked to BTG Pactual’s proprietary position.
In his testimony, Cerveró made no distinction between Esteves and BTG Pactual and did not say who negotiated the bribe in the Petrobras-Derivados transaction, according to Valor.
Antonio Carlos de Almeida Castro, Esteves’s lawyer, denied that his client committed any wrongdoing. The lawyers for Collor de Mello, a former Brazilian president, and Cerveró could not immediately be reached for comment. (Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)