BRASILIA – The Brazilian judiciary on Wednesday suspended as a precaution the appointment of Wellington Moreira Franco as the country’s new cabinet chief, given that he is tainted in the huge Petrobras corruption scandal.
Federal Judge Eduardo Rocha ruled that the naming of Moreira Franco to the post came “just three days after the presentation of complaints against Odebrecht,” the construction firm implicated in the corruption plot detected within the state-run energy firm.
Moreira Franco, with the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), headed by President Michel Temer, moved into his new post on Feb. 3, which automatically gave him privileged status whereby he may only be judged by Brazil’s Supreme Court.
“It is common knowledge that Wellington Moreira Franco was mentioned, in a compromising manner, in the complaint against Odebrecht within the scope of Operation Lava Jato,” said the judge in his ruling.
According to local media, Moreira Franco was cited in at least one of the confessions made by 77 former executives with Odebrecht in exchange for a reduction in his future sentence, testimony in which the alleged payment of bribes by the firm to some 200 lawmakers of all parties was set forth.
Rocha justified the suspension on the basis of legal precedent, given that Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes prevented former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva from becoming a government minister for his successor, Dilma Rousseff, who was removed from office last August.
In fact, the former head of state, who governed from 2003-2010, on Tuesday presented a petition to the high court in which he asked the full judicial body to review the decision rendered in March 2016 in which his appointment as a government minister was suspended.
At that time, Mendes considered that Rousseff had attempted to appoint Lula to provide her political ally and mentor with privileged status in the face of the corruption investigations he was – and still is – facing.