SAO PAULO, Aug 4 (Reuters) - Othon Luiz Pinheiro da Silva, the former chief executive of Brazil’s nuclear power company Eletronuclear, was sentenced to serve 43 years in prison by a Rio de Janeiro judge late on Wednesday, the Valor Economico newspaper reported.
Court and government officials in Rio were on local holiday Thursday in celebration of the Olympic torch arriving to kick off the games.
Silva, considered the father of Brazil’s nuclear program and a pillar of the military-industrial establishment, was convicted of corruption, money laundering, organized crime and obstruction of justice, in the latest chapter of the country’s historic Operation Car Wash investigation.
The 43-year sentence is considered relatively harsh, although Silva, like most white-collar criminals in Brazil, is only likely to spend as little as a sixth of his sentence behind bars before being released.
Jose Dirceu, the former chief of staff for ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, received 23 years when he was sentenced again in May for helping orchestrate the criminal organization in suspended President Dilma Rousseff’s administration under investigation in Operation Car Wash.
Dirceu was a repeat offender, having been convicted and jailed for leading a corruption ring in the government during Lula’s second term under the Mensalao, or big monthly graft, scandal.
Eletronuclear’s Silva colluded with executives at large Brazilian engineering firms Andrade Gutierrez and Engevix to set up an over-billing and kickback operation with the construction of Brazil’s third nuclear power reactor, Angra 3.
“The elements of the court findings permit the conclusion that the corruption scheme was structured before, during and after the tenders for Eletronuclear’s construction of Angra 3 and consisted in the payment of bribes to public servants and agents” by the engineering firms, the judge said in his ruling, according to Valor Economico.
In additional to heading Eletronuclear, a subsidiary of Brazil’s electric power holding company Eletrobras, Silva was a vice-admiral in the Brazilian navy.
The sentence from Rio de Janeiro-based Federal Judge Marcelo da Costa Bretas marks one of the first high-profile rulings in Brazil’s anti-corruption push to be handed down outside of Curitiba in Parana state, which has spearheaded the Car Wash investigation until now. (Reporting by Reese Ewing; Editing by James Dalgleish)