Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil Petrobras corruption: Senator Amaral leaves prison

Senator Delcidio do Amaral, April 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The senator has been ordered to hand in his passport to the Supreme Court

Brazilian Senator Delcidio do Amaral, arrested in November on charges of obstructing a corruption investigation, has left prison after a Supreme Court judge ordered his release.

It is unclear if Mr Amaral, who denies the charges, agreed to a plea bargain to testify against other suspects.

He will be allowed to resume his duties in the Senate while Congress assesses impeachment proceedings against him.

The investigation relates to the state oil company, Petrobras.

Mr Amaral became the first sitting senator arrested in Brazilian history.

He is a former leader of the governing Workers Party.

Judge Teori Zavascki has ruled, however, that Mr Amaral will need to remain at home every night and at weekends.

The senator had been secretly recorded allegedly discussing plans to help a detained official flee the country in return for not implicating Mr Amaral in a major corruption scandal at Petrobras.

The official, Nestor Cervero, was accused of masterminding the corruption scheme. He signed a plea bargain agreement with prosecutors.

'Perplexed by the facts'

The party has distanced itself from the senator since his arrest, which was requested by the Supreme Court and approved by a Senate vote in November.

The executive committee suspended him in December and recommended his expulsion.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Nestor Cervero is serving a jail sentence for money laundering

Workers Party president Rui Falcao said at the time he was "perplexed by the facts" that led to the arrest.

"None of the acts attributed to the senator is connected to his activities for the party," Mr Falcao said in a statement.

"For that reason, the Workers Party does not feel obliged to lend him any solidarity."

One of Brazil's richest men, banker Andre Esteves, was arrested as part of the same operation.

Mr Esteves, Brazil's 13th richest man, worth an estimated $2.5bn (£1.7bn), also denies the charges against him.

The Petrobras scandal has damaged the popularity of President Dilma Rousseff, who was sworn in to a second four-year term in January 2015.

Ms Rousseff is not implicated in the corruption scheme, but she was head of Petrobras during the years when much of the alleged corruption is believed to have taken place.

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