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 oil company Petrobras has announced it will cut 12,000 jobs by 2020.
The voluntary layoff program will help save $9 billion at the company, which has struggled with losses following a price-fixing and bribery scandal.
It has also been hit by the global slump in the price of oil.
Petrobras, which has reported losses for the last two financial years, is expected to spend $1.23 billion on implementing the job cuts plan.
The semi-public company has long been one of the biggest employers in Brazil, with more than 80,000 employees.
However, Petrobras has seen its business hit by the huge falls in oil prices globally and one of the biggest corruption scandals in the country’s history, which has gone to the heart of the country’s government.
Petrobras’ announcement that 12,000 jobs are to be cut over the next five years is part of a investment plan to turn around the company’s fortunes.
The oil producer reported its biggest quarterly loss to date in Q4 of 2015 – $10.2 billion – after losses at its oil fields and refinery projects.
The corruption scandal involving price-fixing, bribery and political kickbacks over the last two years has dented confidence in the business. Some former Petrobras executives have been jailed.
The scandal has also harmed the reputation of Brazil’sPresident Dilma Rousseff, who was on the board of the company at the time of the offences.
Dilma Rousseff is facing the possibility of impeachment on unrelated charges of false accounting.
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”.
Andre Esteves, one of Brazil’s richest businessman, has been arrested as part of the corruption investigation into the state oil giant Petrobras.
Andre Esteves, the chief executive of BTG Pactual, is one of the most senior businesspeople arrested in the corruption case.
He was reportedly arrested at his home. Documents were seized both from there and from the bank’s headquarters in Sao Paulo.
The government’s leader in the Senate, Delcidio Amaral, was also arrested.
Andre Esteves is Brazil’s 13th richest man, worth an estimated $2.5 billion.
Federal police also searched the senator’s offices in Congress. No reasons or details have been given by the police for either arrest.
According to the Brazilian media, police claimed the politician was detained because he was obstructing the course of an investigation.
Authorization for both arrests was given by Brazil’s Supreme Court.
More than 100 people have now been arrested in the two-year investigation, including politicians and former top executives at Petrobras, and some of Brazil’s biggest construction companies.
On November 24, police arrested businessman and rancher José Carlos Bumlai, a friend of former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in an investigation into loans benefiting his companies and President Dilma Rousseff’s Workers’ Party.
Over one million Brazilian protesters have joined demonstrations against President Dilma Rousseff, with many asking for her impeachment.
The protesters say Dilma Rousseff must have known about a corruption scandal in the state oil company, Petrobras.
The political opposition says much of the alleged bribery took place when Dilma Rousseff was head of the company.
However, Dilma Rousseff has been exonerated in an investigation by the attorney general and denies involvement.
Most of the politicians accused of taking bribes in a kickback scheme come from the governing coalition.
Protests have taken place across 22 Brazilian states and the federal capital, Brasilia.
The largest demonstration went ahead in Sao Paulo, attracting more than 500,000 people.
Many of the protesters waved Brazilian flags and wore the yellow shirts of the national football team.
They shouted slogans against corruption and the Workers’ Party government.
Opposition parties have backed Sunday’s protests but have not openly called for impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff.
Senator Aecio Neves, who was defeated by a narrow margin in October’s presidential vote, issued a statement praising the protests.
He said Brazilians “went to the streets to reunite with their virtues, their values and also with their dreams”.
In Rio de Janeiro, police said around 15,000 people had joined a protest there, while in Brasilia a crowd of 40,000 was reported.
On March 13, tens of thousands of President Dilma Rousseff took to the streets.
Her supporters say calls for an impeachment, less than five months after she was elected to a second four-year term, amount to a coup attempt.
The Workers’ Party has been in power since President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sworn in for his first term in January 2003.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court approved the investigation of 54 people for their alleged involvement in the kickback scheme.
The list was prepared by Attorney General Rodrigo Junot who alleged that private companies paid corrupt officials in order to get lucrative Petrobras contracts.
According to the investigation, high-profile politicians also took a share of the money siphoned off from Petrobras.
Rodrigo Junot’s list includes Senate President Renan Calheiros, President of the Chamber of Deputies Eduardo Cunha, former Energy Minister Edison Lobao and former President Fernando Collor de Mello. All deny corruption allegations.