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Brazil graft probe has more than 100 politicians in crosshairs

Demonstrators in Sao Paulo, Brazil march in support of investigations into a sprawling corruption scheme centered on state oil company Petrobras/AFP

BRASíLIA, Brazil, Mar 17 – Brazil’s prosecutor general wants to investigate more than 100 politicians as part of the massive Petrobras corruption probe, a source close to the case said Thursday.

The latest list of suspects in the highly explosive case remains secret.

But speaking on condition of anonymity, the source said there were “probably… more than 100” politicians who currently enjoy immunity from prosecution in ordinary courts as sitting members of Congress or cabinet ministers.

Top prosecutor Rodrigo Janot on Tuesday asked Brazil’s Supreme Court the only one that can try such suspects for permission to open 83 new investigations into a sprawling corruption scheme centered on state oil company Petrobras.

Each of those investigations may involve more than one person, and a given suspect may be targeted in more than one investigation.

The total number of politicians targeted has not been officially released.

Several Brazilian news sites say at least five ministers in President Michel Temer’s center-right government are in the crosshairs, including his recently appointed foreign minister Aloysio Nunes, as well as the presidents of both houses of Congress.

Leftist ex-president Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor and mentor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a huge figure in the Brazilian political scene, were also on the list, Brazilian media reported.

The complaints against the politicians ramp up the so-called Car Wash probe, which has uncovered massive embezzlement at Petrobras.

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The accusations in Janot’s list are based on a deluge of testimony given in plea bargains struck with 77 former executives of the giant Odebrecht construction firm, which was at the heart of the Petrobras scheme.

The former Odebrecht employees, including ex-chief executive Marcelo Odebrecht, have confessed to systemic bribery of politicians in exchange for inflated contracts with Petrobras and favorable legislation in Congress.

The case has upended politics in Brazil just as Latin America’s largest economy struggles through the worst recession in its history.


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