May 31, 2016 (BBC) – The anti-corruption minister in Brazil’s interim government has resigned after a recording suggested he tried to derail a corruption probe into state oil company Petrobras.
Fabiano Silveira is the second interim minister to step down, a week after Planning Minister Romero Juca resigned over a similar leaked recording.
Mr Silveira says his remarks were taken out of context.
Both ministers were appointed by interim President Michel Temer.
Mr Temer replaced President Dilma Rousseff on 12 May after she was suspended pending an impeachment trial.
Ms Rousseff is accused of illegally manipulating the budget ahead of her re-election in 2014, which she denies.
She alleges that the impeachment trial was launched to remove her from power and thereby halt the investigation into corruption at Petrobras.
The investigation, dubbed Operation Car Wash, has led to dozens of politicians and business executives coming under scrutiny for allegedly paying and receiving kickbacks and bribes.
Leaked recordings made by former Senator Sergio Machado appear to back Ms Rousseff’s allegation.
Mr Machado, who used to run a Petrobras-owned logistics company, recorded the conversations as part of a plea deal with Operation Car Wash prosecutors.
In the latest recording to be broadcast on TV, Mr Silveira can be heard criticising the prosecutors saying they were “totally lost”.
He also seems to advise Senate Speaker Renan Calheiros and Mr Machado on how best to defend themselves from Operation Car Wash.
Brazil’s corruption scandals
- Mensalao: Name given to a corruption scheme in which public funds were illegally used to pay members of Congress in exchange for backing the government in crucial votes. The scandal first broke in 2005. By the time the Supreme Court concluded its trial in 2012, 25 politicians, bankers and businessmen had been convicted, some of whom were top members of the Workers’ Party.
- Car Wash: Investigation launched in 2014 into allegations that big construction firms overcharged state oil company Petrobras for building contracts. Part of their windfall would then be used to pay for bribes or campaign expenses. Dozens of high profile politicians and businessmen have been detained or implicated in the affair
- Investigators are also looking into accusations of corruption in projects related to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
- Pedaladas fiscais, delaying fiscal obligations: Dilma Rousseff is accused of using accounting practices to hide the extent of the budget deficit. She says this is common practice in Brazil and has accused her rivals of mounting a coup. Suspended from office in May, she will face an impeachment trial in the Senate.
The recording was made three months before Mr Silveira became anti-corruption minister.
Mr Silveira argues that his remarks were taken out of context: “Those were generic comments and simple opinion, certainly amplified by the climate of political exasperation we have all witnessed.”
He also said that he was not trying to obstruct the investigation.
“There is no opposition, in my words, to the works of the public prosecutor’s office or the judiciary,” he said.
Prior to his resignation, staff at the ministry symbolically cleaned the building with brooms, and dozens of civil servants in the ministry’s local offices offered their resignations in protest.
Last week, interim Planning Minister Romero Juca resigned after another recorded conversation with Mr Machado was leaked.
Mr Juca appeared to talk of stopping Operation Car Wash by impeaching Ms Rousseff.