UPDATE 1-Brazil police arrest 19 in Eletrobras nuke-plant bribe probe

miércoles 6 de julio de 2016 16:46 GYT

* Prosecutors found evidence of $60 mln in bribes

* Former nuclear chief Pinheiro arrested

* Eletrobras nuclear unit CEO forced to give up post (Adds Pinheiro arrest, size of bribery allegations, Brazil nuclear detail, changes dateline)

By Jeb Blount

RIO DE JANEIRO, July 6 (Reuters) - Brazilian police arrested 19 people on Wednesday as part of a probe into a graft scheme at a nuclear power plant owned by state-led utility Eletrobras that has allegedly paid out more than 200 million reais ($60 million) in bribes.

The alleged bribes were paid to senior executives of Eletronuclear, the nuclear power unit of Centrais Eletricas Brasileiras SA, as Eletrobras is formally known, federal prosecutors in Rio de Janeiro said.

In return, executives allegedly let construction companies such as Andrade Guitierrez inflate the cost of the 17.7 billion real ($5.3 billion) Angra 3 nuclear reactor 100 kilometers west of Rio de Janeiro, kicking back part of their take to politicians and political parties.

The arrests expands the giant, two-year-old Operation Car Wash probe of price-fixing, bribery and political kickbacks at state-led oil company Petrobras. The resulting scandal has spread to other state-run enterprises such as Eletrobras and hobbled investment in oil and energy projects.

It has also led to dozens of convictions for bribery and money laundering, the investigation of dozens of top politicians, and probes and civil lawsuits in the United States and Europe.   Continuación...