Brazil Supreme Court judge handling graft probe killed in plane crash

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 19, 2017 2:17 PM

By Raquel Stenzel

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki was killed in a plane crash on Thursday, his son said, raising doubt over who will take over his blockbuster graft investigation into dozens of politicians.

Rescuers found three bodies in the wreckage of the small, twin-prop plane that crashed off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state amid heavy rains, according to firefighters.

"Dear friends, we have just received confirmation that our dad died! Thank you all for your thoughts," his son, Francisco Prehn Zavascki, said on his Facebook page.

A judicial source earlier told Reuters that Zavascki was on board the aircraft.

Zavascki had been reviewing explosive testimony from dozens of executives at engineering group Odebrecht that has been expected to implicate hundreds of politicians in the biggest corruption case in Brazil's history.

The dual propeller Hawker Beechcraft C90GT carrying Zavascki left a Sao Paulo airport around 1 p.m. local time (1500 GMT) and crashed into the sea about 80 minutes later near the town of Paraty, which was the plane's destination, according to air force and civil aviation authorities.

The plane belonged to luxury hotel group Emiliano, according to civil aviation authority ANAC. There was no information provided on the identity of the two other bodies retrieved.

The investigation led by Zavascki, involving at least 6.4 billion reais ($2.0 billion) in bribes for contracts with state-run enterprises, has led to the jailing of dozens of senior executives and threatens to batter the ruling coalition of President Michel Temer.

Under Supreme Court rules, Zavascki's case load would normally fall to the justice named by Temer to replace him, but an exception can be made for urgent matters, according to a court representative.

(Reporting by Raquel Stenzel in Sao Paulo; Additional reporting by Bruno Federowski, Brad Brooks and Lais Martins in Sao Paulo, Anthony Boadle and Maria Carolina Marcello in Brasilia; Writing by Brad Haynes; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Leslie Adler)