November 29, 2018 / 9:32 AM / in 5 months

Rio de Janeiro governor arrested in 'car wash' graft probe

FILE PHOTO: Rio de Janeiro's Governor Luiz Fernando Pezao is seen before the ceremony of Brazil's Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles joining the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) party, in Brasilia, Brazil April 3, 2018. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/File Photo

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - The Rio de Janeiro state governor was arrested on Thursday over allegations he took part in a graft and money laundering group, federal prosecutors said, in the latest blow to Brazil’s political elite by the “car wash” corruption probe.

Luiz Fernando Pezao was detained along with eight others as part of the investigation, which has led to convictions of scores of high level politicians and people from the business elite for a sprawling graft scheme.

Neither the government of Rio de Janeiro state nor the governor’s spokespeople immediately responded to requests for comment.

Prosecutors allege Pezao took part in a criminal organization from 2007 to 2014, when he served as secretary of public works and deputy governor to former Governor Sergio Cabral, who was convicted and jailed over the scheme.

Cabral led the scheme, which took millions in bribes from construction firms in exchange for infrastructure contracts including one tied to the World Cup.

Prosecutors now allege Pezao received money from public coffers in exchange for giving political backing to members of the criminal organization. The money he received was later laundered, prosecutors said in a statement.

He received a total of some 25 million reais, now worth about 39 million reais ($6.49 million) from 2007 to 2015, which authorities have been authorized to seize, they said.

Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Editing by Alison Williams

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