Brazil’s Supreme Court has been asked by Attorney General Rodrigo Janot to authorize the start of corruption investigations against prominent opposition leader Aecio Neves.
Senator Aecio Neves, who narrowly lost the 2014 election to President Dilma Rousseff, was previously included in a list of some 50 politicians thought to have taken bribes originating from state-run companies, including electricity company Furnas.
The case is linked to the huge corruption scandal that has rocked Brazilian politics over the past year.
Aecio Neves denies any wrongdoing.
If the Supreme Court agrees to open an investigation, the senator will be called to testify within 90 days, Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported.
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, Delcidio Amaral was arrested in November.
Senator Delcidio Amaral had been secretly recorded allegedly discussing plans to help a detained official flee Brazil in return for not implicating him in a major corruption scandal at Petrobras.
He was released in February after he agreed to testify against other suspects.
Delcidio Amaral said that Aecio Neves had received bribes from officials at Furnas.
He said the scheme was similar to that operated at Petrobras: Brazil’s top construction companies paid bribes to politicians, political parties and senior executives at the company in order to secure lucrative overpriced contracts.
Aecio Neves’s office rejected the allegations, with an aide telling reporters: “References to Senator Aecio’s name are all based on hearsay. There is no proof or evidence of any irregularity.
“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.”
Rodrigo 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 President Dilma Rousseff’s press secretary Edinho Silva.
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff has said she will take legal action against Senator Delcidio Amaral who has accused her of involvement in corruption at the state oil company Petrobras.
Delcidio Amaral said Dilma Rousseff knew of wrongdoings and tried to block investigations.
Dilma Rousseff has denied any involvement.
Meanwhile, the new justice minister has threatened to remove teams from the Petrobras inquiry if any more material is leaked to the press.
In a statement, Brazil’s presidency said Dilma Rousseff will sue Senator Delcidio Amaral for defamation over his interview with a magazine.
Delcidio Amaral was the leader of her Workers’ Party in the Senate and had agreed a plea bargain with prosecutors after being arrested as a result of the Petrobras scandal.
The inquiry has led to the arrest or investigation of dozens of executives and politicians, suspected of overcharging for contracts with Petrobras and using part of the money to pay for bribes and electoral campaigns.
There is widespread public support for the investigation, known as Operation Car Wash, but Dilma Rousseff and her allies have criticized its leading judge, Sergio Moro.
They argue the inquiry has become politicized and some of his actions have been illegal.
Last week, Judge Sergio Moro released phone recordings suggesting Dilma Rousseff had appointed her predecessor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as her chief of staff to spare him arrest over money-laundering charges he denies.
Even though Dilma Rousseff vehemently denies it, Supreme Court judge Gilmar Mendes has suspended Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s nomination, and a final decision is yet to be announced.
If Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is a minister, any charges against him can only be dealt with by the Supreme Court, which operates more slowly, and not by Sergio Moro.
Earlier this month, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was briefly detained and questioned at Sergio Moro’s request.
Dilma Rousseff’s supporters have also criticized leaks of questioning and details of the investigation to the media.
New Justice Minister Eugenio Aragao questioned the publication of the unverified phone tap conversations between Dilma Rousseff and Lula and said the Car Wash investigation was losing its objectivity.
The release of the recordings has also been criticized by Supreme Court judge Marco Aurelio Mello, who has questioned its legality.
However, the content of the phone calls has increased pressure on Dilma Rousseff, who is facing growing calls for her removal.
Additionally, there has been a resurgence in allegations of media bias against Dilma Rousseff and her Workers’ Party.
Much of the criticism has been against Globo, Brazil’s largest media group and one of the biggest in the world, allegations it denies.
In 2013, Globo issued an announcement about its support of the 1964 military coup, which led to a two-decade military dictatorship, and admitted it had made a “mistake”.