UPDATE 6-Brazil police arrest former finance minister in Petrobras probe

jueves 22 de septiembre de 2016 21:16 GYT

(Adds reported response from Batista lawyer)

By Brad Haynes and Brad Brooks

SAO PAULO, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Brazilian police arrested former Finance Minister Guido Mantega on Thursday as a sweeping corruption investigation struck further at the heart of the Workers Party (PT) that ran the country for 13 years.

Police investigators told a news conference they took Mantega, long a confidant of recently impeached former President Dilma Rousseff and an early member of the PT, into custody at the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo. He was there accompanying his wife as she prepared for surgery.

Mantega, 67, was ordered released from custody a few hours later.

The investigators said Mantega in 2012 requested a payment of 5 million reais, about $2.5 million at the time, from Brazilian business tycoon Eike Batista, a billionaire who has since lost his fortune, to pay PT campaign debts.

At the time, Batista's shipbuilding unit OSX Brasil SA was discussing an oil platform project with state-led oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, known as Petrobras, and loans from state-owned development bank BNDES.

Brazil's longest-serving finance minister of the past 70 years, Mantega in 2012 was also the chairman of Petrobras, the company at the center of a sprawling political-kickback scheme.

Mantega's lawyer, José Roberto Batochio, told reporters late on Thursday that his client never requested money from Batista and said his arrest was "absolutely exaggerated."   Continuación...