UPDATE 5-Brazil police target Rousseff campaign chief in corruption probe

lunes 22 de febrero de 2016 18:36 GYT

(Adds campaign strategist statement, analyst comments)

By Caroline Stauffer and Pedro Fonseca

SAO PAULO/RIO DE JANEIRO Feb 22 (Reuters) - Brazilian police said on Monday they obtained an arrest warrant for the architect of President Dilma Rousseff's electoral campaigns, complicating her fight to survive an investigation of her re-election in 2014 and stave off impeachment by Congress.

The investigation of campaigner João Santana, known as "the maker of presidents" in Latin America, was part of Brazil's corruption investigation focusing on state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras.

Santana, the former ruling Workers' Party treasurer and a top aide to former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as well as dozens of engineering executives, and a ruling party senator have been arrested for colluding to overcharge Petrobras for work in order to distribute excess funds as bribes.

The arrest of Santana could be a further blow to Rousseff, who is not being investigated in the scandal but whose popularity has plummeted as a result. She faces questions over whether her campaign was financed with bribe money skimmed off of Petrobras.

Police said they had identified $3 million in deposits for Santana in offshore accounts in 2012 and 2013 associated with Latin America's largest engineering firm, Group Odebrecht SA.

Santana bought an apartment in Sao Paulo with the payments from Odebrecht, they said. Prosecutors said they were also investigating bribes paid from contracts with shipbuilder Sete Brasil and Keppel Fels, the Brazil unit of Singapore oil rig builder Keppel Corporation Ltd.

Federal Judge Sergio Moro said in the arrest warrant that messages seized from Marcelo Odebrecht, the former chief executive of the family-run conglomerate, suggested the payments to Santana abroad were "surreptitious political donations."   Continuación...