| SAO PAULO
SAO PAULO Oct 13 A former Brazilian senator was
sentenced on Thursday to 19 years in prison for corruption,
money laundering and obstruction of justice in the investigation
of kickbacks at state-run oil company Petrobras.
Gim Argello was arrested in April on evidence he took 7.35
million reais ($2.28 million) in bribes to ensure executives at
major infrastructure companies would not be summoned by an
investigative congressional committee in 2014.
Argello, a senator for the federal district from 2007 to
2015, was serving as the vice president of the congressional
committee looking into accusations of widespread corruption in
Petrobras projects in 2014.
"Instead of fulfilling his duty, the condemned took
advantage of power and opportunity to illegally enrich himself
and continue a criminal cycle," federal judge Sergio Moro wrote
in his decision. "The practice of crimes by congressmen,
overseers of law, is especially reprehensible."
The decision found that Argello, of the centrist Brazilian
Labor Party, received 5 million reais in campaign contributions
from UTC Engenharia SA and 2 million reais in contributions from
Toyo Setal Engenharia.
Argello was also convicted of taking 350,000 reais from
builder OAS SA - money that was laundered through a
Catholic church in the district.
Thursday's ruling was the latest chapter in the probe
centered on Petroleo Brasileiro SA, known as
Petrobras. It has uncovered systemic corruption at multiple
companies and at the highest levels of government.
To date, nearly 200 executives and former politicians have
been charged in the Petrobras probe and over 80 have been found
guilty. Prosecutors are seeking some 38 billion reais in damages
from companies and individuals involved.
Many of those jailed have been executives at Brazil's
biggest construction companies that paid billions in bribes in
return for inflated contracts.
But the investigation has begun to focus on public
officials. Brazil's top prosecutor is investigating 66 current
and former lawmakers, including the sitting head of the Senate
and several former high-profile government ministers.
($1 = 3.22 Brazilian reais)
(Reporting by Brad Brooks, editing by G Crosse)