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Brazil prosecutors charge 42 people in Petrobras scheme

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A worker paints a tank of Brazil's state-run Petrobras oil company in Brasilia, Brazil in this September 30, 2015. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) – Brazilian prosecutors leading the so-called “Car Wash” probe on Friday charged 42 people for their role in an alleged corruption scheme involving a construction contract for state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro in the state of Bahia.

In a statement, prosecutors said those charged included former high-ranking officials at Petrobras and its pension fund Petros, and executives from scandal-plagued builder Odebrecht SA and engineering conglomerate OAS.

The charges mark the latest development in the “Car Wash” probe, a sprawling corruption investigation that has felled many members of Brazil’s political and business elite, revealing the rotten business dealings that long underpinned the upper echelons of Brazilian society.

Prosecutors said the charges related to a bribery scheme involved in the costly construction of the Pituba tower in the Bahia state capital Salvador, which was built in order to be Petrobras’ local headquarters. Money went to senior Petrobras and Petros officials, as well as to the leftist Workers Party (PT).

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s former president and a founder of the PT, is currently in jail as a result of a graft racket uncovered by the Car Wash probe.

The prosecutors said the alleged culprits had been charged with corruption, money laundering and criminal organization. The bribes totaled 67.2 million reais ($17.22 million), they said.

The charges come after police last month served 22 arrest warrants related to the racket, which allegedly lasted from 2009 to 2016.

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