Brazilian federal police said June 19 they have arrested executives at the largest engineering and construction companies in the country, including Odebrecht SA CEO Marcelo Odebrecht, CEO of Odebrecht SA and chairman of plastics and chemical company Braskem SA.
The arrests are part of ongoing investigations into an alleged corruption scheme at state-run oil and energy company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras.
Odebrecht controls Braskem SA, Latin America's largest petrochemical company, with about 38.4 percent of total equity, according to information on the company's website. Marcelo Odebrecht is the chairman of Braskem's board of directors.
Odebrecht SA said it was collaborating with the investigations, and that because of this the arrests were “unnecessary.”
According to Braskem, the Federal Police conducted a search and seizure procedure in the company's office in São Paulo as part of the Lava Jato investigation.
According to local media websites, an email exchange between Marcelo Odebrecht and Braskem executive Roberto Prisco Ramos was one of the documents that motivated Marcelo Odebrecht arrest by the police. In the email, the executives discussed overprice in oil rigs contracts.
Braskem said in a statement that "all message content, including the operation of oil rigs, has no relation to any of Braskem activities."
"The author of the e-mail worked at Braskem until December 2010, and at the date of that message had already been transferred to another company in Odebrecht Organization," Braskem said.
Braskem also said it is committed to cooperate with the investigation.
Federal police and prosecutors investigating the companies said at a June 19 news conference that there is evidence that Brazilian construction companies Odebrecht and Andrade Gutierrez SA led a cartel scheme at Petrobras, defrauding bidding processes and allocating funds to pay executives.
Investigators initially estimate that Odebrecht paid about 510 million Brazilian real ($165.4 million) in bribes, and Andrade Gutierrez about BRL 210 million ($68.1 million), in the cartel scheme involving contracts worth about BRL 26 billion ($8.4 billion).
The arrests are part of a bigger corruption probe into Petrobras, known as “Lava Jato” (or operation “Car Wash”), which is investigating overpricing contracts at the company to pay executives and government officials.
Many executives from Petrobras have already been arrested since the investigations started in March 2014.