Sunday, 22 October, 2017

Brazil Cabinet members investigated in corruption probe

Brazil court orders investigation into top lawmakers Brazil's top court opens probe on 9 ministers, daily says
Sammy Stanley | 13 April, 2017, 01:07

The authorization by Brazil's Supreme Court on Tuesday of probes against nine ministers and dozens of lawmakers marks a new tremor in a corruption scandal shaking Latin America's biggest country.

But speculation is mounting over the fallout facing Mr Temer's center-right government.

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 Supreme Court handles all cases involving sitting politicians and was responding to a March request by top prosecutor Rodrigo Janot to open the cases.

What Brazilian media called "the bomb" and even "the atomic bomb" landed when the Supreme Court authorised probes against 108 politicians in the already giant "Car Wash" investigation.

Temer avoided commenting on the unprecedented wave of investigations triggered by plea bargain testimony from executives at engineering group Odebrecht, but he made clear the government was committed to implementing its ambitious reform agenda, which includes an overhaul of Brazil's creaking pension system.

Among the 24 senators that will be investigated there is the leader of the Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) in that House, Romero Juca, appointed as Minister of Planning by MNichel Temer and forced to resign lwess than two weeks after knowing of his intentions to obstruct the operation Lava Jato. The money went either directly into politicians' pockets or into party campaign slush funds.

Temer's ministers of foreign affairs, trade and agriculture also are under investigation, as well as former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff. Temer, trying to push through austerity reforms as Brazil enters its third year of recession, is deeply unpopular.

The investigation into eight ministers, or almost a third of the president's cabinet, poses a serious threat to Temer's efforts to pass austerity reforms that he says are needed to regain investor confidence and lift the economy out of its worst recession on record.

The complaints against the politicians expanded the so-called Car Wash probe, which has uncovered massive embezzlement and bribery based on Petrobras.

Also targeted is Aecio Neves, who heads the centrist PSDB party and narrowly lost Brazil's last presidential election.

With the biggest names in Brazilian politics under the cloud of the widening corruption scandal, major parties may be left with few untarnished names for the 2018 presidential election, raising the odds of a successful run by an outsider candidate. While Ms Rousseff was on the Petrobras board of directors from 2003 to 2010, she has never been formally accused of corruption or self-enrichment.

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