Latin America & Caribbean

Petrobras: Brazil officials forced to give $60m back

Senate police cars outside the Congress building in Brasilia, October 2016 Image copyright AP
Image caption The so-called Car Wash investigation has rocked Brazil and led to the arrest of senior politicians

Brazilian prosecutors leading a major corruption investigation have returned $60m (£49m) to state oil giant Petrobras.

The money was retrieved from senior politicians, civil servants and businessmen who agreed to cooperate with the investigation.

The kickback scheme cost Petrobras an estimated $1.8bn, said company boss Pedro Parente.

The scandal has rocked the country and led to mass street protests.

Dozens of politicians and some of Brazil's wealthiest businessmen have been arrested as part of the inquiry, known as Operation Car Wash, over the past two years.

Under new legislation, they were allowed to tell what they knew and return some of the corruption money in exchange for shorter sentences.

'Society at our side'

Many in Brazil criticised the operation, saying it was politically-motivated and targeted mostly members of the left-wing Workers Party, including former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

But Operation Car Wash top prosecutor, Deltan Dallagnol, urged the public to support the investigation.

"We will be defeated if society is not at our side," said Mr Dallagnol.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Petrobras chief Pedro Parente says the company could eventually retrieve most of its money lost in the scheme

The political crisis triggered by the Petrobras investigation eventually led to the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in September.

Ms Rousseff was not directly implicated in the scandal and was dismissed for allegedly tampering with the budget.

But many politicians close to the governing coalition were arrested and charged for taking bribes from Petrobras.

Prosecutors say they were paid vast amounts in exchange for granting lucrative contracts to private companies that overcharged Petrobras.

The prosecutors had previously returned $150m (£120m) of corruption money to Petrobras.

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