BRASILIA Oct 6 Brazil's top court has approved
a request by prosecutors to split the investigation of dozens of
politicians implicated in the sprawling Petrobras corruption
scandal by grouping them by the main parties that prosecutors
allege received kickbacks.
The separation is bad news for President Michel Temer
because it will focus the investigation directly on politicians
of his Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB).
In a decision made public on Thursday, Supreme Court Justice
Teori Zavascki agreed to the request by Brazil's chief
prosecutor Rodrigo Janot that the unwieldy investigation be
divided into four probes focusing on the Workers Party (PT),
which was ousted from government in August, the Progressive
Party (PP) and the PMDB in the Senate and in the lower chamber.
"The Car Wash investigation was so big and each group had
its own way of operating in the Petrobras graft scheme that it
was more efficient to investigate them separately," a
spokeswoman for Janot said.
Among the politicians who will be under the new spotlight is
the leader of the Senate, Renan Calheiros, whose help Temer
needs to pass an austerity program through Congress that is key
to bringing Brazil's widening fiscal deficit under control.
The leftist PT of impeached former president Dilma Rousseff
will also feel the heat from the new division of labor by
prosecutors. They included PT founder and former President Luiz
Inacio Lula da Silva in Janot's investigation. Lula is already
to stand trial on corruption charges in a lower court and faces
other related investigations. Four former Rousseff ministers are
also included in the probe.
"This is a momentous moment for the Car Wash investigation,
this splitting the investigation into politicians into four
parts," said Sergio Praça, a political scientist at the Getulio
Vargas Foundation, a leading Brazilian university. "This
decision will really get things moving against the PMDB, it will
speed up the case."
Praça said there has been criticism of the investigation for
being slow to go after sitting politicians - but that this was
the result of Brazilian law mandating that the over-taxed
Supreme Court itself be directly involved in all probes into
Praça said the PT tried to protect itself from prosecution
and failed, and the PMDB was failing too.
"This is a clear sign that neither the Supreme Court nor
federal prosecutors are doing anything to try to protect the
PMDB simply because they are now in power," he said.
(Reporting by Anthony Boadle in Brasilia and Brad Brooks in Sao
Paulo; Editing by Bill Rigby)