Brazil’s top prosecutor has asked the Supreme Court to open an investigation of President Dilma Rousseff for trying to obstruct a massive corruption probe involving state-run oil firm Petrobras (PETR4.SA), Globo News reported on Tuesday.
Rousseff, likely to be ousted from office later this month on unrelated charges of breaking budgetary laws, had previously avoided being dragged into the largest corruption investigation in Brazil’s history.
The request will be analyzed by Supreme Court justice Teori Zavascki and is not public because it is based on recorded phone calls between Rousseff and former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva that are secret, news site G1 reported.
The investigation of Rousseff and Lula could stain the legacy of more than a decade of Workers Party rule, overshadowing significant gains in reducing poverty in Latin America’s largest economy.
Newspaper Estado de S. Paulo reported on Tuesday Prosecutor-General Rodrigo Janot had charged Lula with participating in a scheme to stop former Petrobras executive Nestor Cervero from collaborating with the investigation.
Dozens of construction executives have been accused of overcharging Petrobras for work and using excess funds to bribe politicians, a scandal that has triggered Brazil’s most explosive political crisis in decades and increased calls for Rousseff’s ouster.
The federal prosecutors’ office would not confirm the charge or the request to investigate Rousseff.
The Supreme Court did confirm on Tuesday that Janot had asked for Lula and several of Rousseff’s ministers to be formally investigated, including Chief of Staff Jaques Wagner, the minister in charge of legislative affairs, Ricardo Berzoini, and Rousseff’s spokesman, Edinho Silva.
Janot is expanding the investigation largely because of testimony from Senator Delcidio do Amaral, who decided to collaborate with the investigation in exchange for a lighter sentence. The court was already investigating some 50 politicians, including the leaders of both houses of Congress.
Janot’s requests add to a growing uproar over just how many senior politicians are suspected of taking kickbacks from Petroleo Brasileiro SA, as Petrobras is formally known (PETR4.SA).
Senior politicians will likely continue to face legal problems, and possible jail terms, well past Rousseff’s expected ouster. Brazil’s Senate this month will weigh her suspension ahead of a trial on charges over budget irregularities.
The lower house of Congress voted overwhelmingly to impeach Rousseff last month. She says she has done nothing wrong.
Asked if he would avoid naming anyone under investigation to his Cabinet, Vice President Michel Temer, first in line for the presidency, said in a television interview on Tuesday he was not sure.
Prosecutors said in documents obtained by Estado de S.Paulo they did not see a reason to open an investigation of Temer, although he had been mentioned in plea bargain testimony. Janot said in the documents the “criminal organization” operating at Petrobras would not have been possible without Lula.
Lula’s institute said on Tuesday Janot had offered a hypothesis without proof.
Rousseff’s spokesman Silva, who was also the treasurer of the 2014 re-election campaign whose finances have been called into question as part of the probe, said in a statement the campaign was clean.
Prosecutors in the southern city of Curitiba have also sought to investigate Lula. Their efforts have stalled as the Supreme Court weighs whether or not Rousseff can make him a minister, a move that would give him immunity from all but the high court. (Courtesy Reuters)