Brazil prosecutor wants arrest of Senate boss, ex-president

2016-06-07 22:30
Demonstrators protest in Porto Alegre, southern Brazil, against the government of President Dilma Rousseff. (Jefferson Bernadez, AFP)

Demonstrators protest in Porto Alegre, southern Brazil, against the government of President Dilma Rousseff. (Jefferson Bernadez, AFP)

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Braslia - Brazil's top prosecutor has asked for authority to arrest and detain the president of the Senate and a former president of the country over alleged attempts to obstruct a corruption probe, reports said on Tuesday.

If confirmed, the reports in the main Brazilian newspapers would mark a stunning new acceleration in a corruption-fuelled political crisis shaking Latin America's biggest economy and would raise doubts over the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff.

Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot has asked the Supreme Court to authorize the arrests of Senate President Renan Calheiros, former Brazilian president Jose Sarney, Senator Romero Juca and powerful lawmaker Eduardo Cunha, O Globo said in a report.

The report, which did not name its sources, was matched by two other newspapers shortly after. However, officials at the prosecutor's office and Supreme Court refused to confirm the information to AFP.

The four are accused of participating in a huge embezzlement and bribery network based on state oil company Petrobras.

According to the reports, Janot now accuses them of trying to obstruct the probe into the scheme, known as Operation Car Wash. The alleged evidence against them came from secret recordings of conversations made by a former oil executive, Sergio Machado, who is co-operating with Car Wash prosecutors in a plea bargain.

If confirmed, the scandal would be a huge blow against interim president Michel Temer, who took the reins after the suspension of Rousseff last month for her impeachment trial. All four in the prosecutor general's crosshairs are from Temer's PMDB party.

Calheiros is a key player because he is overseeing the impeachment proceedings in the Senate, which are expected to culminate in August with a vote on whether to remove her from office.

She is accused of taking illegal loans to mask holes in the state budget during her narrow 2014 re-election drive.

Rousseff says the accounting practice was not illegal and describes the impeachment as a coup aimed at removing the left from power and stopping the Car Wash probe, which has already snared dozens of top-ranking executives and politicians from both left and right.

Juca is an important PMDB and Senate ally of Temer, while Cunha was responsible for driving the impeachment process through the lower house.

If confirmed, this would also be the first time the country's chief prosecutor has requested the arrest of a former president, Folha newspaper reported. Sarney was in power from 1985-1990.

Read more on:    petrobras  |  brazil

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