(Adds comments from parties and politicians targeted in the
investigation and from the Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot)
By Marcela Ayres and Maria Carolina Marcello
BRASILIA, March 14 Brazil's top public
prosecutor asked the Supreme Court to open 83 new investigations
into senior politicians on Tuesday, reportedly including five
ministers and leading lawmakers, in a dramatic escalation of a
graft probe threatening the government.
Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot also requested that the
Court send 211 other requests to lower courts based on
much-anticipated testimony by dozens of executives of
engineering group Odebrecht SA in Brazil's
biggest-ever corruption scandal.
Brazilian newspapers reported that Janot called for an
investigation of five members of President Michel Temer's
cabinet, along with his most senior allies in Congress, raising
concerns about the stability of his administration and the fate
of fiscal reforms cheered by investors.
Temer said last month that he would suspend any cabinet
member who is placed under investigation and would dismiss them
only if they are indicted for corruption.
Under Brazilian law, cabinet ministers, federal senators and
lower house lawmakers can be tried only in the Supreme Court,
where cases often take years to come to trial.
Janot could not disclose the names of the politicians and
others covered by his request as the Odebrecht testimony and
related investigations are still under seal. He asked Supreme
Court Justice Edson Fachin to lift the judicial secrecy on the
case for the sake of transparency and the public interest.
In a letter to explain the operation, Janot said his actions
on Tuesday will remind Brazilians "of the sad reality of a
democracy under attack by the corruption and the abuse of
political and economical powers."
President Temer himself has not been directly implicated in
illicit party funding and has denied any wrongdoing in the
sprawling three-year corruption scandal centered on overpriced
contacts at state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA
Dozens of politicians reportedly named for taking kickbacks
in the testimony by Odebrecht executives included senators in
Temer's Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PDMB) and the
allied Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB), which led the
impeachment of leftist Dilma Rousseff last year.
Janot called for lower courts to investigate Rousseff and
her predecessor and political mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva,
according to newspapers O Globo, O Estado de S.Paulo and Folha
de S.Paulo. Both former presidents have repeatedly denied any
involvement or knowledge of alleged corruption.
TEST FOR TEMER
The new investigations will be a test for Temer as he
strives to pull Latin America's largest nation out of its worst
recession in more than a century.
Temer succeeded Rousseff in May, vowing to eliminate
corruption and restore fiscal discipline, but he has already
lost several ministers to bribery allegations.
His chief of staff, Eliseu Padilha, a key organizer of
political support in Congress for a crucial reform of Brazil's
costly pension system, is on thin ice after an Odebrecht
executive was reported to have said he asked for a cash donation
for Temer's 2014 campaign.
Newspapers Globo, Folha and Estado reported that Padilha and
four other members of Temer's cabinet were on Janot's list:
Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes, Science Minister Gilberto
Kassab, Cities Minister Bruno Araújo and Wellington Moreira
Franco, the head of Temer's high-profile infrastructure
Janot also called for the investigation of key Temer allies
in Congress, according to the newspapers, including lower House
Speaker Rodrigo Maia and the three most senior PMDB senators:
Senate President Eunicio Oliveira and senators Romero Juca and
Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes said he required access to
Janot's accusations and will only comment when he is aware of
the content. Cities Minister Araújo said he has asked for
campaign donations from Odebrecht in the past, but did so in
accordance with the law.
Senator Romero Jucá said he is available to collaborate with
investigations and believes facts will be clarified.
Reuters was not able to confirm the media reports. The other
politicians cited were not immediately available for comment,
but they all have consistently denied wrongdoings.
The PMDB released a statement on Tuesday expressing support
for the investigations and calling for "the clarification of the
facts of the matter."
PSDB said it has always defended the Car Wash investigation,
believing that it is the only way to separate guilty from
Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles said news of the
investigation should not hurt progress on the government's
Janot first opened investigations of seated politicians
implicated in the kickback scandal in March 2015, but only five
have been indicted and none convicted.
The new round of investigations fueled by the Odebrecht
testimony follows 10 months of negotiations with the
family-owned firm, Latin America's largest engineering group.
In December, Odebrecht signed a leniency accord with
prosecutors, agreeing to pay 6.7 billion reais ($1.9 billion),
admit guilt and offer details of bribes it paid.
Seventy-seven of its executives, including family patriarch
and Chairman Emilio Odebrecht and his jailed son and former
Chief Executive Marcelo Odebrecht, made some 950 statements to a
team of 116 prosecutors across the country, Janot's office said.
($1 = 3.17 reais)
(Reporting by Marcela Ayres and Maria Carolina Marcello;
Writing by Brad Haynes, Anthony Boadle and Marcelo Teixeira;
Editing by Daniel Flynn, Dan Grebler and Lisa Shumaker)