One-third of constitutional coup President Michel Temer’s cabinet and many of his closest allies face investigation after Brazil’s Supreme Court ordered corruption proceedings targeting eight ministers and dozens more top politicians.
In total, 108 people will be investigated following Justice Edson Fachin’s ruling, which brought together 74 probes involving plea bargain deals and testimony from former and current executives with the giant Odebrecht construction company, which is at the center of a bribes-for-contracts scandal.
The list of names of those being investigated was published on the Supreme Court website on Tuesday night.
Targets include presidential chief-of-staff Eliseu Padilha, Chamber of Deputies speaker Rodrigo Maia, Senate president Eunício Oliveira, and the ministers of foreign affairs, agriculture, and trade.
Also being investigated are the leaders of the two major parties in Temer’s coalition. Temer became interim president of Brazil in May 2016 and full president following a constitutional coup against former president Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached and removed from office in August 2016.
The politicians have all denied any wrongdoing. Temer has temporary immunity from prosecution because Brazilian presidents can only be charged for crimes they committed during their term in office.
After authorizing the investigations, the attorney-general will proceed in carrying them out and later decide whether the accused should go on trial.
Temer said recently that any ministers standing trial should step down from their cabinet posts.
The judge’s decision comes as a body blow to Temer’s government. The president himself is already fighting to survive an electoral court trial that could remove him from office for illegal campaign financing.
He is also trying to drive vicious austerity measures through Congress at a time when his voter-approval rating has fallen as low as 10 per cent.
When the list was publicized, Congress members fled, abandoning a key vote on helping financially strapped state governments, thereby forcing the proposed law’s cancellation.
The Supreme Court investigates politicians who hold office because of its special jurisdiction and is often slower than lower courts that go after senior figures.
Justice Fachin sent 201 other investigations to lower courts for judges there to decide whether they should proceed.
He decided too that nine state governors would have their investigations analyzed by another court.
The Odebrecht corporation and state oil giant Petrobras are at the heart of a wide-ranging investigation involving kickbacks and inflated contracts at state companies.