Brazil justice minister to quit as Lula probe tension grows -sources

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s Justice Minister, Jose Eduardo Cardozo, plans to resign by today, fed up with rising attacks from his Workers’ Party over a wide-reaching police probe into corruption that has ensnared a number of party officials, two presidential sources told Reuters yesterday.

Jose Eduardo Cardozo
Jose Eduardo Cardozo

Brazilian dailies Folha de S.Paulo and Estado de S.Paulo, first to report the minister’s imminent departure, said leading members of his party have increased pressure on Cardozo in recent days after former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was notified that Brazilian courts plan to subpoena his bank, telephone and financial records.

Meanwhile, a source in President Dilma Rousseff’s office said Cardozo will be named the country’s top lawyer in charge of the federal government’s legal defence, replacing Attorney General Luís Inácio Adams who is leaving.

Wellington César Lima e Silva, a prosecutor from the state of Bahia linked to the Workers’ Party, will become the next justice minister, said the source who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.

Lula, a five-time presidential candidate and two-term president from 2003 to 2010, is under investigation in the wake of a giant and widening corruption scandal at state-led oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

Lula has already faced police questioning over the financial dealings of his children and friends and now faces questioning of his alleged ownership of a beach-front penthouse triplex and country estate.

The penthouse and country home were allegedly renovated by construction companies involved in the price-fixing, bribery and political kickback scandal at Petrobras, as the oil company is known. Lula has said the properties don’t belong to him.

On Saturday, Lula lashed out at the subpoenas.

“If this is the price people must pay to prove their innocence, I’ll do it,” Lula said referring to the subpoenas. “The only thing I want is that afterward they give me a good conduct certificate, because I doubt there is anyone more honest than I am in the country.”

A justice ministry spokeswoman declined to comment. Aides to Rousseff could not be reached. Cardozo, a lawyer and law professor, is recovering from lymphatic cancer.

Cardozo is upset over PT allegations that he has failed to control a political witch hunt against Lula and other government allies.

Cardozo has said he has no authority to restrict investigations without evidence police violated a person’s rights.

A Cardozo resignation would come as pressure mounts on both Lula and Rousseff after last week’s arrest of Joao Santana, a political consultant who ran Rousseff’s two successful presidential bids and Lula’s successful re-election campaign in 2006.

Prosecutors allege Santana was paid with money siphoned from Petrobras by corrupt construction companies working with politician and Petrobras executives.

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