Brazil Infrastructure Minister Keeps Job, Immunity

Posted by Joseph Keefe

A Brazil Supreme Court justice rejected an injunction
that sought to remove President Michel Temer's minister in charge
of infrastructure investment, Wellington Moreira Franco, who has
been named in a corruption investigation.

Justice Celso de Mello's ruling on Tuesday also allows Moreira
Franco to keep his immunity from prosecution by lower courts. The
injunction filed by a leftist opposition party sought to annul
his appointment as cabinet minister, arguing that Temer was
trying to shield him from prosecution.

Mello ruled that was not the case.

Moreira Franco was implicated during plea bargain testimony by a
former executive of engineering conglomerate Odebrecht who is a
defendant in the sweeping bribery and political kickback
investigation known as "Car Wash."

The probe, centered around state-run oil company Petroleo
Brasileiro, has already ensnared dozens of top government,
political and corporate leaders over the past two years and could
implicate many more, including Temer himself, as plea bargain
testimony advances.

As a minister, Moreira Franco can only be charged before the
Supreme Court, where a trial would drag out for months or years.

Had Moreira's appointment been blocked by the injunction, any
investigation of his role in the corruption scandal would have
been in the hands of anti-corruption Judge Sergio Moro, who has
presided over the Car Wash cases.

Annulment of one of his closest aides would had been a serious
blow to Temer's political standing as he strives to restore
business confidence in an economy mired in a two-year recession.

Temer on Monday dismissed criticism that he promoted Moreira to
shield him from prosecution and vowed to dismiss any minister
indicted for corruption. Until the promotion, Moreira was Temer's
top adviser charged with drawing Brazilian and foreign investment
for infrastructure projects.

Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassú

Feb 14, 2017

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