BRASILIA – Judge Sergio Moro, who is leading a massive corruption probe that has ensnared some of Brazil’s most powerful individuals, warned in the Senate on Thursday that legislative measures now before Congress threaten to derail further advances in the investigation.
Moro made his remarks during a Senate hearing on abuse of authority, a thorny issue that has prompted the introduction of bills that the judicial branch says could inhibit the work of judges and prosecutors.
Senate President Renan Calheiros, a suspect in the sprawling bribes-for-inflated-contracts scheme centered on state oil company Petrobras and author of one of the bills that has triggered a conflict between the legislative and judicial branches, chaired the hearing.
The proposed measures could lead to suspects filing criminal complaints against the judges and prosecutors investigating them for alleged graft, Moro said.
He added that the measures, if they were to become law, could even result in judicial officials serving time in prison on vague charges such as engaging in “partisan political activity.”
Prosecutors in the Petrobras investigation have threatened to collectively resign if the measures, which were inserted into a civil society-backed bill to stiffen punishments for corruption, are enacted.
The Petrobras investigation unearthed a decade-long scheme in which Odebrecht and other large Brazilian construction and engineering companies allegedly overcharged the oil giant for contracts and split the extra money with corrupt Petrobras executives while setting aside some of the loot to pay off politicians who provided cover for the graft.
Prominent figures, including erstwhile Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht, have been convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms over the scandal, which is estimated to have cost Petrobras as much as $2 billion.