Little Christmas joy for Brazil's jailed high and mighty

Thu Dec 24, 2015 8:22am EST
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By Caroline Stauffer and Anthony Boadle

SAO PAULO/BRASILIA (Reuters) - The former chief executive officer of Latin America's largest engineering group will be allowed panettone in his jail cell this Christmas. He may even get turkey, as long as it is boneless.

For the first sitting Brazilian senator to be jailed in modern times, the season will be equally gloomy. He will spend Christmas Day in a room with a chair and a bed, and no family visit.

Marcelo Odebrecht, ex-CEO of the multinational construction company bearing his billionaire family's name, and Senator Delcídio do Amaral are among a handful of prominent and powerful Brazilians facing Christmas in jail this year, awaiting judgment in a massive corruption investigation.

The scandal centered around state-controlled oil giant Petroleo Brasileiro SA, along with impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff over an unrelated issue and a deep economic recession, have combined to rock the Brazilian establishment.

Federal judge Sergio Moro, a white-collar crime specialist, and a team of young prosecutors have dismantled a massive price-fixing, bribery and political kickbacks scheme that engulfed Petrobras.

The sight of wealthy executives led away in handcuffs has stunned much of Brazil, a country where the gap between rich and poor remains large, but some have questioned the value of lengthy pre-trial detentions.

Unless Brazil's Supreme Court has a change of heart and accepts a request for his release, Odebrecht, 47, will spend the holiday at the state-run Pinhal medical complex in the southern city of Curitiba, where he shares a cell with two others.

Family members may bring a special lunch including rice or pasta, boneless meat and panettone bread for Christmas, but no presents, a spokeswoman said. The prison is holding normal Friday - Sunday visiting hours this week.   Continued...

Brazil's Senator Delcidio Amaral smiles during a public hearing of the Committee of Economic Affairs at the Federal Senate to hear the testimony of Petroleo Brasileiro SA President Aldemir Bendine in Brasilia, Brazil, in this April 28, 2015 file photo.   REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino/Files