By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The senate in Brazil approved on Wednesday (April 27th) a bill to curb what it dubs as ‘abuse of power’ by federal prosecutors looking into corruption allegations. On the same day, however, the Upper House also voted to extinguish the special legal protection held by politicians charged with corruption.
The bill to ‘curb abuse of power’ was criticized by prosecutors who say it would limit their actions in the Lava Jato (Carwash) investigations. Some opposition senators also criticized the bill.
“Of course this country needs to end the abuse of authority; but not to curtail the work of judges, prosecutors, police, which seems to be the purpose (of the bill) at this time,” said Senator Cristovam Buarque to reporters during the Senate session.
According to the bill, approved by 54 to 19, prosecutors would find it harder to obtain court authorization for wiretaps and bank account disclosures of individuals suspected of corruption. They would also be fined for ‘abuse of power’ and not ‘showing impartiality’ in their investigations.
The other bill voted on in the Senate on Wednesday, which extinguishes privileges to politicians, cabinet members and high government officials, was unanimously approved by lawmakers. The bill calls for politicians to be heard in the lower courts, just like any other individual. Currently, the Supreme Court decides charges against these officials.
“Today the special legal protection is seen by the population as a true loathsome privilege, used only for the protection of the political class – which no longer enjoys a good reputation – due to successive corruption scandals,” stated Senator Randolfe Rodrigues, the rapourter of the bill.
If it passes in the Lower House, it would mean those Congressional representative and cabinet members charged with corruption in the Lava Jato graft, would not have their case be heard by the Supreme Court, but rather by a lower court.
In this case, Judge Sergio Moro, the lead judge in the Lava Jato investigations, would be overseeing the hearings. Earlier this month prosecutors were authorized by Brazil’s Supreme Court to investigate close to 100 politicians said to have received illegal bribes and illicit campaign donations from Odebrecht in the Lava Jato scandal.