Crime & Justice

Brazil’s ex-justice minister testifies against Bolsonaro in meddling probe

Sao Paulo, May 3 (efe-epa).- Brazilian authorities have opened an investigation against President Jair Bolsonaro on allegations of political interference in the federal police, after an order from the Supreme Court in this regard.

Sergio Moro, Bolsonaro’s erstwhile justice minister who had quit his post in late April after leveling serious allegations against the president, testified on Saturday at the Federal Police headquarters in Curitiba, southern Brazil.

Moro, a former federal judge who gained international recognition by spearheading a sprawling anti-graft campaign, had resigned on Apr. 24 protesting Bolsonaro’s decision to fire Federal Police director Mauricio Valeixo, calling it “political interference” in law-enforcement investigations.

The former justice minister testified for eight hours in the presence of three public prosecutors appointed by Prosecutor General Augusto Aras.

Curitiba is the same city where Moro hadpreviously served as a judge in cases linked to the multi-million dollar Lava Jato (Car Wash) scandal, jailing powerful businessmen and leaders including former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

The allegations by Moro – arguably the most popular minister in the cabinet – had kicked up a political storm in the country, and his statement lead to Supreme Court judge Jose Celso de Mello ordering a formal investigation at the request of Aras.

The investigation will probe the allegations against Bolsonaro, who could face criminal charges such as coercion, malfeasance and obstruction of justice, but also scrutinize Moro, who might face charges of slander if found unable to prove his claims.

Moro has claimed in a media interview that he had evidence incriminating Bolsonaro which he intended to hand over to the investigators.

Just after his resignation, the former judge had released to a popular news program a purported exchange of text messages with the president that allegedly showed his intent of changing the leadership of the Federal Police.

Bolsonaro has vehemently denied the allegations and lashed out against Moro, calling him “Judas.”

Groups supporting and opposing Bolsonaro on Saturday gathered against the police headquarters in Curitiba to hold protests, and had to be separated by the police after a tense standoff.

The Federal Police is set to collect evidence and statements in the case for preparing a report, to be presented to the public prosecutor’s office.

If the evidence is deemed sufficient, the public prosecutors can lodge a formal case with the Supreme Court, which can only begin a trial if it is approved by a two-thirds majority in the 513-member Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the parliament.

If the majority votes in favor of the trial, the next steps include the president’s suspension for a 180-day period, during which the top court would complete the trial, and if found guilty, his impeachment and replacement by the vice president.

In the middle of the crisis, Bolsonaro named Alexandre Ramagem, the head of the intelligence agency and a family friend, as the new head of Federal Police.

However, the appointment was blocked by another Supreme Court Judge Alexandre de Moraes, due concerns over Ramagem’s links to the Bolsonaro family, especially his sons Flavio and Carlos.

Bolsonaro has decided to challenge the court decision through public attorneys.

The Federal Police has been carrying out investigations into the alleged dissemination of fake news on social networks by groups linked to Boslonaro’s second son Carlos, the mayor of Rio de Janeiro, and a separate money laundering probe against Flavio, the eldest son, dating back to his tenure as a Rio lawmaker. EFE-EPA

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