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Ex-chief of Brazil's Petrobras arrested in graft probe

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Rio de Janeiro (AFP)

Brazilian federal police on Thursday arrested a former head of Petrobras and the Banco do Brasil, marking a new phase of a sweeping graft probe into the state-owned oil company.

Three people were detained in the operation, the prosecutor's office said in a statement, as part of the "Car Wash" investigation that has uncovered systemic corruption and ensnared many of Brazil's political and business elites.

According to the statement, ex-chief of Petrobras Aldemir Bendine and associates are "suspected of organizing bribes worth 3 million reais" (currently about $946,000) from construction conglomerate Odebrecht.

The group would have received the sum in payments "that were only interrupted" following the arrest of Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht in 2015, the statement said.

Bendine led Banco do Brasil from 2009 to 2015 and headed Petrobras from February 2015 to May 2016.

Dozens of senior leaders across the political spectrum and high-ranking businessmen have been investigated or convicted since the sprawling corruption scandal began in 2014.

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