When their investigation into graft and kickbacks at Petrobras led them to the top floors of the state-run oil company, Brazilian authorities knew they were on to something big. Just how far the trail of corruption would extend past Petrobras, no one could guess — until now.
Last week, federal agents investigating the scheme arrested Senator Delcidio do Amaral, a key ally of President Dilma Rousseff, along with Andre Esteves, the billionaire financial maverick who ran BTG Pactual, Latin America’s largest private investment bank. Offering bribes, trying to interfere with testimony, and conspiring to help a convicted felon flee the country: The crimes they are accused of would not be out of place in a prime-time telenovela.
Brazilians know the script. The head of the country’s largest construction firm is already behind bars for alleged contract fraud and corruption related to the Petrobras scandal. His fellow inmates include a handful of corporate big shots and lobbyists who have been convicted or are answering charges of forming a cartel — a “VIP club,” one executive called it — to rig government contracts and control public policy.