SAO PAULO, Oct 30 (Reuters) - A Brazilian Supreme Court judge has decided that a corruption investigation into a nuclear power plant was unrelated to a broader bribery probe focused on state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA and should be overseen by a different judge, newspaper Estado de S. Paulo reported on Friday.
Justice Teori Zavascki, who is in charge of cases of politicians under investigation for allegedly receiving kickbacks in the Petrobras scandal, ruled he would no longer oversee the probe into the nuclear power subsidiary of state-run electric utility Eletrobras, known as Eletronuclear, Estado said.
The newspaper did not say how it obtained the ruling. Friday is a holiday in Brasilia and the Supreme Court was closed.
The decision would mean trials involving suspects in the Eletronuclear case will no longer be overseen by Judge Sergio Moro in the southern city of Curitiba and will instead be held in Rio de Janeiro, where Eletronculear is based, Estado reported.
Analysts and prosecutors have warned that splitting up Brazil’s largest-ever corruption investigation could result in a loss of focus. The decision will likely stifle efforts of police and prosecutors in Curitiba to expand their investigation into other state-run enterprises.
The Angra 3 nuclear power plant near Rio de Janeiro, which is operated by Eletrobras, is being built by many of the same engineering firms whose executives are on trial or serving time in Curitiba for conspiring to form a cartel that allegedly overcharged Petrobras for work and used the excess funds to bribe executives and politicians.
Moro, who ordered preventive jailing of some of Brazil’s wealthiest men and served others with stiff sentences, has become a folk hero for thousands of Brazilians who are fed up with impunity for the elite.
Defense lawyers have long argued Moro should not be responsible for the whole case.
Zavascki’s ruling on Eletronuclear responded to a request by lawyers for an executive at contractor Andrade Gutierrez, which is accused of participating in cartels working with Eletronuclear and Petrobras.
The case went before the Supreme Court, the only court in Brazil that can try elected officials, because it involves former Energy Minister Edison Lobao, now a senator.
Last month the Supreme Court also separated a corruption probe involving President Dilma Rousseff’s former chief of staff, who has been accused of receiving bribes related to a federal planning ministry contract with a software firm.
That ruling encouraged lawyers to try to get the Eletronuclear case separated and taken away from Moro. (Reporting by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Leslie Adler)