SAO PAULO, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Brazil’s prosecutor-general Rodrigo Janot has accused jailed financier André Esteves of influence-peddling and bribery in a corruption probe at state firms, newspaper Valor Econômico said on Wednesday, a day before lawyers expect the nation’s top court to decide whether to release the billionaire banker.
According to Valor, Janot said evidence showed Esteves “was part, consciously and willingly, of a scheme that created a cartel, practiced acts of active and passive corruption and laundered money” through dealings with state-controlled oil producer Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras).
Janot alleged in a Dec. 7 document sent to Supreme Court justices that Esteves and Grupo BTG Pactual SA, the bank he helped found six years ago, profited from those dealings, said the paper, which obtained a copy of the filing.
Esteves was formally charged that same day, although access to the accusations was not made public at the time.
Antonio Carlos de Almeida Castro, Esteves’ lawyer, denied the allegations. BTG Pactual declined to comment.
Media representatives at the prosecutor-general’s office in Brasilia declined to comment.
Esteves and Senator Delcídio do Amaral, the former leader of governing coalition in the upper house, were arrested on Nov. 25 on suspicion of obstructing “Operation Car Wash,” a sweeping probe into corruption at Petrobras.
The Valor report comes as the court is scheduled to meet on Thursday to decide on Almeida Castro’s petition to release Esteves on grounds that prosecutors failed to produce evidence that his client committed any crimes.
Almeida Castro and other lawyers working for Esteves alleged that the billionaire was being singled out because of his wealth. “He is in jail because he is rich,” they said in the petition, to which Reuters obtained access.
Esteves, detained in a Rio de Janeiro prison, has relinquished his executive duties at BTG Pactual and exited the holding that controls the bank days after his arrest.
A Supreme Court judge authorized the arrests after prosecutors presented a taped conversation in which Amaral tried to bribe former Petrobras executive Nestor Cerveró out of taking a plea bargain that could implicate the senator, Esteves and other politicians.
Prosecutors alleged that Amaral conspired to help Cerveró flee authorities. They said the senator offered a monthly stipend to the former executive’s family, financed by Esteves.
The online edition of Veja Magazine reported on Wednesday that Amaral exempted Esteves from any involvement in the attempted bribery.
According to documents produced by Amaral’s defense that Reuters had access to, the senator’s mention of Esteves in taped conversations was a bluff to give Cervero’s family the impression they would be taken care of.
Calls made to Amaral’s lawyer seeking comment were not immediately returned. (Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Andrew Hay)