Carwash Scandal Sparks Calls for Brazil's Moro to Resign
(Bloomberg) -- Justice Minister Sergio Moro is facing growing calls to step down after the publication of messages he allegedly exchanged with prosecutors of the so-called Carwash task force, Brazil’s largest-ever corruption investigation that he headed as a federal judge until last year.
The messages released by The Intercept website Sunday supposedly show Moro sharing information and offering advice to prosecutors working on the case that led to the conviction of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for corruption and money laundering, which barred him from last year’s elections.
The former judge, considered by many Brazilians as a superhero fighting endemic corruption in the country, said the messages were taken out of context and don’t show anything out of the ordinary in his actions. But the Brazilian Bar Association recommended that the minister step down from public office while investigations continue. Members of the opposition said they won’t vote on the government’s flagship pension overhaul proposal until measures against Moro and the Carwash prosecutors are taken.
Even the head of a special lower house committee discussing pension reform, deputy Marcelo Ramos, said Moro should step down until matters are resolved, Reuters reported.
The Carwash probe has unveiled a massive scheme of kickbacks in contracts with state-owned companies that involved the nation’s largest builders and leading politicians. Widespread disgust over corruption was a key factor in propelling President Jair Bolsonaro to an election victory last year. After his election, Bolsonaro invited Moro to head the Justice Ministry with ample powers, including control of a financial watchdog body known as Coaf.
Many government allies have expressed support for Moro on social networks and interviews. Bolsonaro himself has remained silent. But, after a meeting at the presidential residence this morning, they sat side-by-side during a navy event in Brasilia. During the ceremony, Moro was one of the government officials to be awarded with a medal from Bolsonaro himself.
Since leaving his career as a magistrate behind, Moro has faced a more challenging environment in Brasilia. An anti-crime package he sent to Congress early in the year is expected to remain on the back burner for an indefinite period of time, and he recently lost control over the Coaf financial watchdog during negotiations in Congress.
--With assistance from Flavia Said.
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