A former Petrobras director was sentenced to five years in prison Tuesday on money laundering charges.
The sentence against Nestor Cerveró, which will initially be served in a closed prison, was handed down by federal judge Sergio Moro, responsible for criminal charges in Operation Lava Jato, or Car Wash -- the ongoing investigation into a vast corruption scheme centered on Brazilian state-run oil giant Petrobras.
Cerveró -- head of international operations at Brazil's largest company between 2003 and 2008 -- was charged in February with accepting bribes to help major construction and engineering firms secure inflated contracts with the oil giant.
The difference was allegedly creamed off and funneled in part to political parties, with executives and money changers also getting rich in the process.
Prosecutors accused Cerveró, who was arrested in a Rio airport in January, of acquiring a luxury apartment in the city with the misappropriated funds, wired through offshore companies in Uruguay and Switzerland. The property was valued at between 7 and 7.5 million reais ($2.2 - 2.4 million), according to local media.
Prosecutors alleged that Cerveró -- who still faces corruption charges -- used a company that he owned, Jolmey do Brasil, as a front for his illegal activities.
Federal prosecutors say he and Fernando 'Baiano' Soares -- who is also facing criminal proceedings -- are suspected of receiving $40 million in bribes from Petrobras contracts between 2006 and 2007.
The scandal has rocked Petrobras, and resulted in scores of arrests and, more recently, convictions, principally of construction industry executives, on charges of corruption and money laundering. Many have signed plea bargains to secure lesser sentences.
Investigators have also recently moved to put politicians in their crosshairs, after the Supreme Court authorized earlier this year the investigation of 47 politicians, 32 of them acting, including the incumbent heads of both houses of Congress and a former president.
The scandal has been particularly uncomfortable for President Dilma Rousseff, who chaired the company's board of directors during many of the years the wrongdoing allegedly took place. She has denied any knowledge about the scheme at the time.
By Ben Tavener