Corruption probes target 9 Brazilian ministers
BRASILIA, Brazil – Brazil's corruption crisis struck the heart of President Michel Temer's government Tuesday, April 11, with the opening of probes into no less than 9 ministers.
What Brazilian media called "the bomb" and even "the atomic bomb" landed when the Supreme Court authorized probes against 108 politicians in the already giant "Car Wash" investigation.
The investigation into a massive embezzlement and bribery conspiracy that fleeced state oil company Petrobras and funneled dirty money into leading political parties' election war chests has already been running 3 years.
But the new probes threaten the stability of Temer's deeply unpopular government just as he struggles to enact austerity measures in a bid to pull Brazil out of a historic recession.
Supreme Court documents showed that 9 ministers were on the list of targeted politicians, all suspected of involvement in the Car Wash scheme.
They included Temer's influential chief of staff Eliseu Padilha, newly appointed Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes, and Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi.
In addition, the Supreme Court authorized probes against 3 state governors, 29 senators and 42 members of the lower house of Congress, the respected Estadao newspaper reported. Among the lawmakers were the speakers of the upper and lower houses.
The Supreme Court handles all cases involving sitting politicians and was responding to a March request by top prosecutor Rodrigo Janot to open the cases.
The accusations in Janot's list are based on a deluge of testimony given in connection with plea bargains struck with 77 former executives of the giant Odebrecht construction firm, which was at the heart of the Petrobras scheme.
The former Odebrecht employees, including ex-CEO Marcelo Odebrecht, have confessed to systemic bribery of politicians in exchange for inflated contracts with Petrobras and favorable legislation in Congress. The money went either directly into politicians' pockets or into party campaign slush funds.
Temer government under fire
Speculation had been mounting over the fallout for Temer's center-right government from the publication of the Supreme Court list.
Temer, pushing for painful economic reforms as Brazil enters its third year of recession, already faced questions over his legitimacy.
He took over last year from leftist president Dilma Rousseff after she was impeached for illegal handling of government finances. She claims she was victim of a coup.
Several of Temer's ministers have already had to resign due to involvement in the Car Wash scandal.
The Supreme Court is so far only authorizing investigations and Temer has already said he will not sack any minister who had not been formally charged with a crime.
But the probes further discredit Temer's ruling PMDB party, with its senior senator Romero Juca, among those on the list.
Also targeted is Aecio Neves, who heads the centrist PSDB party and narrowly lost Brazil's last presidential election.
The huge scandal has already claimed a host of big politicians and business figures.
Former leftist president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from the Workers' Party faces multiple Car Wash probes.
Rousseff, who succeeded her mentor Lula, is reported to be on Janot's list, but this has not been confirmed.
Since they are no longer elected officials, the two former presidents are dealt with by lower courts, not the Supreme Court. – Rappler.com