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Two former executives of Brazil's Petrobras arrested

© AFP/File | Investigators say they have evidence from telephone taps, bank records and statements from other executives from Petrobras and other companies who have agreed to cooperate with the court in exchange for sentence reductions

SAO PAULO (AFP) - 

Two former high-level executives of the Brazilian state oil company Petrobras were arrested in connection with a sweeping corruption investigation dubbed "Operation Car Wash," prosecutors said Thursday.

Marcio de Almeida Ferreira and Mauricio de Oliveira Guedes are accused of taking 100 million reais ($31 million at the current exchange rate) in bribes from construction companies linked to the corruption scandal that has rocked Brazil's political and business establishment.

A third former executive, Edison Krummenauer, is also suspected of having participated in the sprawling embezzlement and bribery network, but reached a plea deal.

According to the prosecution, bribes were paid into 2016 -- two years after the launch of the Car Wash probe, which has already uncovered a vast web of politicians and executives who fleeced the state oil company.

Investigators say they have evidence from telephone taps, bank records and statements from other executives from Petrobras and other companies who have agreed to cooperate with the court in exchange for sentence reductions.

Ferreira, according to one testimony, tried to launder 48 million reais in bribes that had been deposited into accounts in the Bahamas.

Doing so would have allowed him to benefit from a law on the repatriation of funds enacted by former president Dilma Rousseff.

Rousseff was impeached and removed as president last year for the unrelated crime of breaking government accounting rules.

"This is very serious, because it shows that this law has institutionalized money laundering from abroad," prosecutor Diogo Castor said.

The latest phase of the Car Wash probe, known as "Asphyxia," focuses on embezzlement at Petrobras, which has blamed losses of some $2 billion on the scandal.

© 2017 AFP