Former Lula aide Jose Dirceu. Image courtesy of Agência Brasil/Wikimedia Commons.

A top aide to former Brazilian president Lula da Silva was arrested at his home on Monday as part of an ongoing corruption probe into Brazil’s oil and gas industry.

According to the AFP, Prosecutor Carlos Fernando dos Santos Lima alleges that Jose Dirceu, who served as Lula’s chief of staff from 2003 to 2005, was a “chief instigator” in the creation of a bribery and corruption scheme tied to Petrobras contracts.

Dirceu was arrested at his home where he is already serving a seven year house arrest sentence for his role in a separate political corruption case.

Prosecutors claim Dirceu laundered about $11.7 million that he received from several unnamed companies through his own firm.

Dirceu allegedly took the funds and paid them to his firm, JD Consulting, for services that were never performed, the AFP said.

Prosecutors claim Dirceu was one of the chief architects of a corruption scheme that may be worth at more than $2 billion.

Former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is being investigated for allegedly using his influence to help Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht win overseas business.

Prosecutors allege that Lula da Silva helped Odebrecht win billion dollar deals in Africa and Latin America between 2011 and 2014, after completing his tenure as president.

Several executives from Petrobras and other Brazilian oil and gas firms have been arrested on charges ranging from bribery to money laundering since police launched a corruption probe last year.

Former Petrobras downstream chief Paulo Roberto Costa has alleged that executives were improperly inflating the price of Petrobras contracts and taking the excess funds.

Costa, who has admitted to taking bribes, also claims that politicians from both major political parties received three percent of a contract’s value for deals signed by Petrobras while he served as director of refining from 2004 to 2012.

Brazilian prosecutors officially charged Marcelo Odebrecht, CEO of construction firm Odebrecht SA, with corruption, money laundering and criminal conspiracy in late July.

Prosecutors also allege that Brazil-based Odebrecht SA laundered more than 1 billion reais, or about $300 million, from 2006 to 2014.


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