Brazil Supreme Court judge orders probe into nine ministers: paper

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 11, 2017 4:23 PM

By Ricardo Brito

BRASILIA (Reuters) - A Brazilian Supreme Court justice has ordered investigations into 71 sitting lawmakers and nine ministers in President Michel Temer's cabinet allegedly linked to the country's biggest corruption scandal, Estado de S. Paulo reported on Tuesday.

The office of Justice Edson Fachin confirmed he would lift the seal on plea bargain testimony from 77 employees of the Odebrecht [ODBES.UL] engineering conglomerate on Tuesday, but declined to comment on whether politicians were being placed under investigation.

Temer's office also declined to comment. Nine ministers would be about one-third of his cabinet.

In March, Brazil's top public prosecutor asked the Supreme Court to open 83 investigations into senior politicians based on the Odebrecht testimony, escalating the threat posed by the graft probe to Temer's administration.

Local media have reported the testimony accuses dozens of politicians of taking bribes to help what was once Latin America's biggest builder win multi-million-dollar contracts with state-run oil company Petrobras.

Some of the ministers reportedly targeted include Temer's chief of staff, Eliseu Padilha, who is considered a key negotiator in the administration's efforts to approve its landmark pension reform in Congress.

Temer's foreign affairs, trade and agriculture ministers also will be investigated, according to Estado de S. Paulo, which did not say how it obtained the information.

Temer has vowed to suspend ministers who are charged and dismiss them if indicted.

Aides close to Temer have told Reuters that it could take months for the ministers to be charged, meaning Padilha and other key cabinet members will likely stay on the job long enough to secure the passage of the pension reform.

Former presidential candidate and likely contender for the 2018 elections, Senator Aecio Neves of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB) also will be investigated, the daily reported.

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Alonso Soto; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Bill Trott)