Brazil's Top Prosecutor Seeks to Investigate Rousseff, Lula

  • Prosecutor also wants to probe BTG's Esteves, politicians
  • Requests made public days before crucial impeachment vote

Brazil’s chief prosecutor has asked the Supreme Court to authorize an investigation into President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, increasing the political temperature days before senators decide whether she should step down for an impeachment trial.

Federal Prosecutor Rodrigo Janot filed the request to probe Rousseff with the high court, which must authorize any formal investigation into the president or a member of her cabinet, newspapers O Estado de S.Paulo and O Globo reported. A copy of the document wasn’t available on the court’s website. Rousseff said the "leak" of the filing before the crucial impeachment vote was illegal.

“Those who leaked the document have suspicious, unspeakable interests,” she said.

In a separate filing posted on the Supreme Court’s website, Janot sought authorization to investigate Lula along with several politicians and business leaders, including Rousseff’s top aide Jaques Wagner and former BTG Pactual Chief Executive Andre Esteves. Justice Teori Zavascki will rule on the request. The Supreme Court declined to comment when asked when he would make a decision.

In the filing, Janot says new evidence indicates Lula was part of a scheme along with other members of the ruling Workers’ Party and Vice President Michel Temer’s Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, which has the most seats in Congress. Lula has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and Temer himself hasn’t been accused of corruption. The Lula Institute that the former president founded said in an e-mailed statement that Janot’s accusations are unproven, calling them “offensive” and “unacceptable.”

Wagner’s press office said he always acted in the public interest, adding he’s confident investigations will show he did nothing wrong. Esteves’s press representative said in a statement the executive committed no wrongdoing.

The probe would be part of a two-year investigation into graft at state-run oil company Petrobras that has ensnared top politicians and corporate executives. The scope of the probe, known as Carwash, has expanded in recent months as a growing number of suspects turn state’s evidence and provide police with greater details of the scheme.

Janot’s request comes days before the Senate is scheduled to vote whether to temporarily remove Rousseff from office and try her on allegations she broke the budget law. The charges are unrelated to Carwash. If a simple majority of the legislators vote against the president -- as is widely expected -- she must step down for as long as 180 days and stand trial in the Senate. The chamber then would need support from two-thirds of its 81 members to impeach Rousseff and terminate her mandate.

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