Latin America & Caribbean

Brazil to probe opposition leader Aecio Neves for corruption

Senator Aecio Neves, who heads the PSDB opposition party, is pictured during a Senate session 25 April 2016 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Senator Neves, who lost the 2014 election by a narrow margin, is supporting President Rousseff's impeachment

Brazil's Attorney General Rodrigo Janot has asked the Supreme Court to authorise the start of corruption investigations against a prominent opposition leader, Senator Aecio Neves.

Mr Neves, a former presidential candidate, has been accused of taking bribes from the state-owned electricity company Furnas.

The case is linked to the huge corruption scandal that has rocked Brazilian politics over the past year.

Mr Neves denies any wrongdoing.

If the court agrees to open an investigation, Mr Neves will be called to testify within 90 days, Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported.

'Based on hearsay'

The case is based on allegations made by Senator Delcidio Amaral as part of a plea bargain.

A former leader of the Workers' Party in the Senate, Mr Amaral was arrested in November.

He had been secretly recorded allegedly discussing plans to help a detained official flee the country in return for not implicating Mr Amaral in a major corruption scandal at Petrobras.

Mr Amaral was released in February after he agreed to testify against other suspects.

The disgraced senator said that Mr Neves had received bribes from officials at Furnas.

He said the scheme was similar to that operated at Petrobras: the country's top construction companies paid bribes to politicians, political parties and senior executives at the company in order to secure lucrative overpriced contracts.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Rousseff's popularity has declined sharply since she took office 16 months ago

Mr Neves's office rejected the allegations.

"References to Senator Aecio's name are all based on hearsay. There is no proof or evidence of any irregularity," an aide told journalists.

"These are old questions that have already been the subject of previous investigations, which were thrown out, or questions that have no relation to the senator."

Mr Janot has also requested the opening of a corruption probe against other senior politicians and officials, the Speaker of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, and Ms Rousseff's press secretary Edinho Silva.

Mr Neves was defeated in the 2014 election by Dilma Rousseff, who faces possible impeachment for allegedly tampering with the budget ahead of the poll to hide a growing deficit.

Ms Rousseff says the impeachment is a political coup against her plotted by the parties who lost the vote.

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