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September 26, 2017
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Temer taps political ally for top court amid graft probe

Brazil’s president nominates his Justice Minister Alexandre Moraes

BRASILIA — BraziL’s President Michel Temer nominated Justice Minister Alexandre Moraes as his nominee to the Supreme Court on Monday, seeking to place a close political ally on the tribunal as it rules on a graft scandal threatening his government.

Temer, whose conservative government is seeking to push through spending cuts and pro-business reforms, had faced calls to appoint a politically independent jurist to the 11-member chamber.

The tribunal is due to decide the fate of scores of senior politicians, including some of Temer’s closest aides, who are under investigation for alleged involvement in Brazil’s biggest-ever corruption case.

Moraes, who is closely allied to the PSDB party that supports Temer’s government, would replace justice Teori Zavascki, who was killed in a plane crash last month.

“The solid academic credentials of Doctor Alexandre de Moraes qualify him for the post of Supreme Court justice,” government spokesman Alexandre Parola said in a brief statement.

Moraes’ nomination will require ratification by the government-controlled Senate.

Zavascki had been the Supreme Court justice in charge of Brazil’s biggest-ever anti-corruption investigation, code-named Operation Car Wash. The court picked its newest member last week to take over the probe.

Moraes had been an early frontrunner to take the empty seat on the tribunal but his chances appeared to fade after Temer said he would appoint someone with a similar profile to Zavascki, a discreet technical expert averse to media appearances.

On January 30, the head of Brazil’s Supreme Court validated 77 plea bargains with officials from Odebrecht, a construction giant targetted by the so-called Lava Jato, a major corruption probe.

The investigation into kickbacks at the state-run oil company Petrobras is already the largest ever in Brazil, but the Odebrecht deals are expected to reveal even more wrongdoing and contain allegations that the corruption reached the highest levels of government. At least one could implicate Temer, who denies wrongdoing.

Prosecutors say that inflated contracts at Petrobras and other state companies yielded more than US$2 billion in bribes over a decade and the probe already has ensnared dozens of politicians and executives, many of them implicated by information learned in plea bargains.

There had been concerns that the probe might be delayed after the Supreme Court justice Zavascki, tasked with handling part of it, was killed in a plane crash in January. Supreme Court Chief Justice Carmen Lucía validated the deals herself.

One of the most anticipated deals accuses Temer of seeking and accepting illegal campaign financing. If the allegations are confirmed by Brazil’s top electoral court, the president would be removed and Congress would pick a successor.

Herald with Reuters, AP

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