Brazil ministers to be questioned in Bolsonaro probe

Brasília (AFP) –


Three top ministers to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro will face questioning in a potentially damaging probe on whether the far-right leader obstructed justice, after the Supreme Court granted investigators' request for access Tuesday.

The case stems from accusations by former justice minister Sergio Moro, who resigned in protest last month after Bolsonaro fired the federal police chief.

In a scathing last press conference, Moro, a popular anti-corruption crusader, accused Bolsonaro of improper interference in police investigations.

He did not say which ones, but the federal police are reportedly investigating several cases involving Bolsonaro and his sons.

Supreme Court Justice Celso de Mello granted a request from investigators probing Moro's allegations to question three influential military generals who serve in Bolsonaro's cabinet: Internal Security Minister Augusto Heleno, Chief of Staff Walter Braga Netto and Secretary of Government Luiz Eduardo Ramos.

Several media outlets meanwhile published a leaked summary of Moro's own eight-hour deposition Saturday before investigators.

In it, Moro mentioned the three ministers who are now due to be questioned as witnesses to and mediators in his discussions with the president on replacing then-federal police chief Mauricio Valeixo.

The document says Moro told investigators Bolsonaro wanted him to ensure a new federal police superintendent would be named in Rio de Janeiro, the president's hometown, where his son Carlos, a city councilor, is reportedly under investigation over allegations he oversaw a fake-news campaign to benefit his father.

The police document quotes Moro telling investigators that Bolsonaro sent him "basically the following message: 'Moro, you have 27 police superintendents (across Brazil). I only want one: Rio de Janeiro.'"

Bolsonaro downplayed the leaked testimony.

"I read parts of it. Nowhere does it say I committed a crime," he said.

Judge De Mello also authorized investigators to question six top police officials and federal lawmaker Carla Zambelli.

Moro says Zambelli, a Bolsonaro ally, tried to persuade him to fire the then police chief, telling him the president would appoint him to the Supreme Court if he did.