By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Days after Brazilian Planning Minister, Romero Jucá, stepped down under suspicion of trying to limit investigations on mega-corruption scandal Lava-Jato (Carwash), another recording has implicated other, high-level officials in the scheme.
Recorded conversations between Sergio Machado, the ex-president of Transpetro, and Senate president Renan Calheiros as well as former President, José Sarney, released by national daily Folha de S. Paulo seem to indicate that the two officials spoke about possible ways to interfere with the investigations. Machado who is being investigated in the Lava Jato scandal is said to have signed a plea bargain agreement authorities on Wednesday.
In the recording between Machado and Sarney, the former President promised to try to intervene politically so that Machado would not be investigated by Judge Sergio Moro, responsible for the Lava Jato investigation, according to the daily. The former leader is also said to have told Machado to speak to Senate President, Renan Calheiros and former cabinet member, Romero Jucá for help.
Sarney told reporters on Wednesday that his words were taken out of context and that those conversations were ‘between two friends’. “I often I tried to say words that, in his time of distress and uneasiness, would increase his confidence and hope of overcoming the charges he was facing,” the former president was quoted as saying by Agencia Brasil.
Senate President Renan Calheiros denied any wrongdoing, stating that he is in the habit of sitting down with anyone who asks him to. “The dialogues do not show and do not indicate nor suggest any mention or attempt to interfere with the Lava Jato or anomalous solutions. And it would not be the case because nothing will interfere with the investigations,” stated the note released by the Senate press corps to on Wednesday afternoon.
According to Folha de S. Paulo the senator is heard on tape stating that he is in favor of changes in the law that allows those already arrested for a crime to enter into plea bargains in exchange for lighter sentences.
The conversation goes on to say that many politicians, from many political parties are scared of what these plea bargains may reveal, with many of those accused in the Lava Jato corruption scheme turning state’s evidence and naming high-level executives and politicians as part of the scheme.
The mega money laundering investigation into state-controlled oil giant, Petrobras, dubbed Lava Jato, was started by the Federal Police in March of 2014 and has implicated people from across the political and business spectrum: from Former President Lula to former Chief of Staff Jose Dirceu and suspended Chamber of Deputies President, Eduardo Cunha, as well as top Petrobras directors.
The heads of Brazil’s largest construction and logistics firms have also been arrested and some have given federal prosecutors detailed information about bribes given to officials and politicians for Petrobras contracts. The two years of investigations have rendered more than 93 convictions and returned to the government more than R$2.9 billion worth of proceeds from bribes and money laundering.