Mar 23, 2016 7:00 PM

Seized spreadsheets list payments to top Brazil politicians

The Associated Press

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) In another stunning turn in the snowballing corruption investigation that is shaking Brazil, top newspapers on Wednesday released scans of dozens of spreadsheets seized by police listing what appeared to be payments by one of the country's biggest companies to about 200 politicians, including code names and monetary values.

The newspapers O Estado de S. Paulo, O Globo and Folha de S. Paulo said the documents were discovered during the search last month of the Rio de Janeiro home of an executive at the Odebrecht construction giant one of the companies embroiled in the "Car Wash" probe of an alleged kickback scheme at the state-run Petrobras oil company.

The papers cautioned that it was not immediately clear whether the spreadsheets were tracking legitimate campaign donations or illicit payouts. But the sheer scope of the document dump, which lists Cabinet ministers, legislators, governors and mayors from around 18 parties, was sure to raise a slew of questions and further ratchet up the pressure on Brazil's much disdained political class.

The documents were removed from the home of Benedicto Barbosa da Silva Junior, president of Odebrecht Infrastructure, during a February police search and have been catalogued as evidence in the investigation headed by federal Judge Sergio Moro in the southern city of Curitiba.

Moro's office was closed Wednesday due to the Easter holiday and not able to answer any questions about the documents.

O Estado de S. Paulo published scans of more than 60 pieces of evidence on its website. The spreadsheets, some of which include hand-written notes and additions, appear to be linked to payments made during elections in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

G1, the internet portal of the Globo television network, put the total listed in the spreadsheets at more than 55 million Brazilian reais, about $15 million.

Among the politicians on the spreadsheets were Education Minister Aloizio Mercadante, a member of President Dilma Rousseff's inner circle; opposition Sen. Aecio Neves, who narrowly lost to Rousseff in the 2014 presidential runoff; and the speaker of the lower house, Eduardo Cunha a Rousseff foe who brought impeachment proceedings against the president over allegations of fiscal mismanagement by her administration.

Cunha, who has been indicted on bribery charges, denied he received any illicit campaign contributions sand he hot not received any contributions "directly" from Odebrecht, according to G1. Other politicians listed on the spreadsheets also denied receiving illicit payouts.

The lists also include Rio de Janeiro Mayor Eduardo Paes, who is the driving force behind the Olympic Games in the city Aug. 5-21.

The document dump came a day after police carried out a wave of searches and detentions linked to Odebrecht. Prosecutors said that corruption was so deeply entrenched in the company, one of Brazil's biggest, that the firm had a whole department dedicated to making illicit payments.

In a statement hours after Tuesday's raids, the company issued a statement saying it had decided to collaborate with the investigation.

"We hope that our explanations contribute significantly to the institutions of law in Brazil and help construct a better Brazil," the statement said.

The document drop also came on the heels of a legal victory for embattled former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Late Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki said Moro erred in releasing tapped phone calls of Silva and at least temporarily removed the judge from any investigation of the former president.

The decision means Moro no longer has the power to order Silva's provisional detention over suspicions of money-laundering and influence peddling in connection with the Petrobras scheme. Silva denies all wrongdoing.

However, Zavascki stopped short of allowing Silva to become Rousseff's chief of staff, which has been blocked by other judges. The Cabinet post would make it harder to investigate Silva for possible corruption because only Brazil's Supreme Court can authorize investigation, charges and detention for top government officials.

Rumors that Silva would be given a Cabinet-level posting surfaced after Moro ordered him taken in for questioning in the corruption probe earlier this month. He was named Rousseff's chief of staff last week, leading critics to contend that it was a bid to help shield the former leader from his legal woes.

At a rally Wednesday in Sao Paulo with labor unions, Silva suggested Rousseff had offered him a Cabinet post in August but said he was reticent to accept. "I have the notion that a former president and a president sharing space is not easy," he told the rally.

In another development in the Petrobras investigation, federal police presented preliminary indictments against eight more people, including a political marketing guru who helped Rousseff win elections in 2010 and 2014.

Campaign strategist Joao Santana and his wife were indicted on charges including money laundering and taking part in a criminal organization. The public prosecutors' office must now decide whether to take up the charges.


Associated Press writers Stan Lehman and Mauricio Savarese in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.


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