Planning minister Romero Jucá, a close adviser of interim president Michel Temer, is stepping aside as a result of a new political scandal after he was caught on tape allegedly conspiring to obstruct the Lava Jato operation, the largest corruption investigation in Brazil's history.

Jucá has said the recordings leaked by a newspaper were taken out of context. In taped conversations in March with former senator Sergio Machado, he talks of a "national pact" that would appear to stop the federal police's corruption probe into overbilling and bribes surrounding contracts with state-run oil company Petrobras. The investigation has ensnared dozens of high-ranking politicians and executives at major construction companies such as Odebrecht and OAS.

In a brief television appearance, Juca said he would step aside starting on Tuesday.

Machado, who until recently headed Transpetro, Brazil's largest oil and gas transport company, is under investigation in the Petrobras scandal. According to Folha de S. Paulo, he recorded the conversation with Jucá in order to negotiate a plea bargain with authorities.

After the revelation, suspended president Dilma Rousseff said the tapes prove the impeachment was a "political coup." Jucá, also under investigation, was one of the architects of the impeachment process, along with lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha. Both of them are part of Temer's PMDB party.

The planning ministry supports the coordination of various federal government projects, including those involving the country's infrastructure investment plans.

News reports that Juca's replacement in the planning ministry, Dyogo Henrique Oliveira who has been the target of a separate corruption inquiry, is likely to cause fresh embarrassment for the Temer administration just 11 days after taking over for the impeached Rousseff.


Source: BNamericas