Venezuela's Supreme Court on Friday gave initial approval to a complaint that could lead to a corruption case against a leading opponent of President Hugo Chavez.
The Supreme Court's preliminary decision opened the way for authorities to attempt to strip Henrique Capriles of his immunity from prosecution as a state governor, which would be a first step toward any criminal case.
Capriles is among politicians vying to be the opposition's candidate in next year's presidential election and has been a leader in recent opinion polls.
The court announced its decision in a statement, saying it was accepting a request by pro-Chavez party leader Gerson Perez to take up corruption accusations against Capriles. Perez alleges that Capriles, who is governor of Miranda state, gave contracts for government projects to companies owned by his family.
Capriles' campaign chief, Armando Briquet, condemned the legal actions as "political tricks."
"There is no case," Briquet said in a statement. "They will not stop the governor's commitment and focus on continuing to denounce the precarious situation of our country."
Capriles, 39, has announced plans to run in a primary planned for next February that opposition parties are using to pick a joint candidate ahead of the presidential election in late 2012. In some recent polls, Carpiles has had approval ratings above 50 percent.