(Adds comments from Odebrecht defense lawyer)
SAO PAULO, Dec 15 (Reuters) - Brazil's second-highest court voted on Tuesday to keep the former chief executive of Latin America's largest engineering group Odebrecht SA in jail, extending nearly six months of pre-trial detention in the southern city of Curitiba
Marcelo Odebrecht was arrested on June 19 and charged with corruption and money laundering a month later as part of a kickback and bribery investigation focused on state-run oil firm Petrobras. His lawyers fiercely contested the legality of his detention.
In justifying the court's decision, Superior Tribunal of Justice Judge Jorge Mussi pointed on Tuesday to evidence that Odebrecht deposited funds into the bank accounts of former Petrobras executives abroad. The court also voted to keep two other Odebrecht executives, Rogerio Santos de Araujo and Marcio Faria, in jail.
Odebrecht's defense lawyer, Nabor Bulhoes, said he disagreed with the court's decision and may appeal with the country's top judicial body, the Supreme Court.
Marcelo Odebrecht, third-generation leader of the privately held conglomerate, was instrumental in its expansion throughout Latin America, Africa and the United States. Odebrecht formally stepped down on Dec. 10. He has close ties to former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Judge Sergio Moro in June justified Odebrecht's detention by pointing to a risk of interference in the Petrobras investigation and his potential to continue to commit crimes, a risk to public order.
Police in June intercepted a handwritten note from Odebrecht asking his lawyers to "destroy e-mail," which his defense said was not a request to erase evidence and had been taken out of context.
Critics of the Curitiba investigation say Brazilian police and prosecutors have been too eager to use Odebrecht as an example in their self-declared war on corruption and impunity for the wealthy in Latin America's largest economy.
Petrobras is formally known as Petroleo Brasileiro SA. (Reporting by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)