Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil corruption probe: Rio state ex-governor Cabral held

Rio de Janeiro's Governor Sergio Cabral smiles as he visits the site of the construction of a new tunnel to the Transolimpica expressway in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on November 08, 2013. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sergio Cabral oversaw major construction projects during his time as governor of Rio state

Police in Brazil have arrested a former governor of Rio de Janeiro state, Sergio Cabral.

Police said his arrest was connected to an investigation into allegations that the Rio state government embezzled more than $64m (£51m) of federal funds aimed for construction projects.

Federal officers searched his home on Thursday. The probe is part of Brazil's wider "Car Wash" corruption inquiry.

Bystander shouted "Thief!" as Mr Cabral was taken away for questioning.

'Kickbacks for contracts'

He is the most high-profile politician to be arrested in recent months over corruption allegations.

Mr Cabral, from the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), served two terms as governor of Rio state from 2007 to 2014.

Investigators said the directors of two construction companies had incriminated him.

They allege that Mr Cabral received kickbacks in return for awarding them lucrative contracts, such as the refurbishment of Rio's Maracana stadium.

Mr Cabral has not yet commented.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Brazilians say they are fed up with the high levels of corruption

Police said his arrest was part of a major operation involving 230 police officers carrying out dozens of search and arrest warrants.

Mr Cabral is the latest in a long line of Brazilian politicians and top business people who have come under scrutiny as part of "Operation Car Wash".

One of the best-known politicians to have been named in connection with the investigation is former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Dozens of powerful figures have been found guilty and jailed, including the CEO of construction giant Odebrecht, Marcelo Odebrecht, and the treasurer of the Workers' Party, Joao Vaccari.

The scandal has rocked Brazil and led to mass street protests against corruption.

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