(Adds statement from Brazilian prosecutors, Sao Paulo in dateline)
ZURICH/SAO PAULO, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Swiss authorities have arrested a Brazilian citizen linked to a criminal investigation into suspected bribes paid to former directors at Brazil’s state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Swiss federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.
Brazilian prosecutors said the Swiss had arrested Fernando Migliaccio da Silva, an executive with engineering group Odebrecht SA, one of the largest companies at the center of a price fixing and political kickback scandal.
The arrest could provide more evidence against Latin America’s largest engineering firm and its former chief executive Marcelo Odebrecht, who is standing trial for corruption and money laundering in Brazil.
“The person concerned was arrested after entering Switzerland for a short period in order to close a bank account and move the assets in the account abroad,” a spokesman for the Office of the Swiss Attorney General (OAG) said in an emailed statement, adding the suspect had been placed in custody.
“The court based its decision on the strong suspicion that the person arrested was involved in the payment of bribes to former Petrobras directors.”
Brazilian prosecutors said the Swiss had acted alone, though the investigation in Brazil had pointed to Migliaccio as one of Marcelo Odebrecht’s subordinates in charge of distributing bribes into offshore accounts. They said Migliaccio moved abroad in June, after Marcelo Odebrecht was arrested in Brazil.
The Swiss attorney general’s office said in July it had widened a corruption investigation into Petrobras, as the oil company is known, to include Odebrecht SA, and its subsidiaries.
Brazilian police launched the 23rd phase in their two-year-old investigation on Monday, ordering the arrest of the architect of President Dilma Rousseff’s 2010 and 2014 campaigns and his wife.
They also said they had obtained more evidence against Marcelo Odebrecht, including that the company had bribed foreign officials in Argentina and Peru. Odebrecht has declined to comment on the latest phase of the investigation, saying it has not had access to the terms of the inquiry. (Reporting by Joshua Franklin in Zurich and Caroline Stauffer in Sao Paulo; Editing by Michael Shields and W Simon)