BY PEDRO FONSECA
RIO DE JANEIRO – João Santana, the architect of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s 2010 and 2014 campaigns, landed in Brazil from the Dominican Republic Tuesday and was taken in a police jet to the city of Curitiba, the epicenter of a massive corruption probe, his spokesman said.
The arrest of Santana is a threat to Rousseff, who is facing questions over whether her 2014 campaign was financed with bribe money skimmed off of state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, or Petrobras.
Police said Monday they had a warrant for Santana’s arrest after evidence showed engineering conglomerate Odebrecht had paid him funds siphoned from Petrobras in offshore accounts.
They said Santana also appeared to have received bribes in 2013 and 2014 from Zwi Skornicki, a money mover who prosecutors said represented Keppel Fels, the Brazil unit of Singapore oil rig builder Keppel Corporation Ltd.
Santana said in a statement he was quitting the re-election campaign of Dominican Republic President Danilo Medina in order to defend himself from “baseless accusations.”
Known as “the maker of presidents,” Santana, 63, led Rousseff’s 2010 and 2014 campaigns. He also advised former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in his 2012 re-election bid, producing dramatic, high-budget campaign videos appealing to poor voters.
Federal Judge Sergio Moro also blocked the bank accounts of Santana, who allegedly received a total of $7.5 million in bribes, and of his wife and business partner Monica Moura.
Brazil’s electoral court is investigating Rousseff’s 2014 re-election campaign, including the suspicion of illegal funding. Congress is also trying to impeach her for manipulating government accounts in 2014, while she campaigned.
Consultancy Eurasia Group said Santana’s investigation increased the odds of the electoral court calling new elections, though it said that was still unlikely.