25 de agosto de 2015 / 21:46 / en 2 años

Brazil judge says president's ex-chief of staff may have been bribed

SAO PAULO, Aug 25 (Reuters) - The federal judge in Brazil overseeing a sweeping corruption investigation said on Tuesday there were signs that President Dilma Rousseff’s former chief of staff had received bribes.

Judge Sergio Moro asked the Supreme Court to separately consider a part of the case involving fraudulent contracts with Brazil’s planning and budget ministry that may have benefited former chief of staff Gleisi Hoffmann, now a senator.

Rousseff was elected to her first presidential term in 2010, and Brazil’s largest-ever corruption probe has pushed her popularity to single digits. The investigation is divided between Moro’s court in the southern city of Curitiba, where trials have been ongoing since last year, and the Supreme Court in Brasilia, the only court that can try sitting politicians.

Moro said Hoffman appeared to have received money from Consist, a consultancy that allegedly helped divert funds from the planning ministry.

The ministry has been the focus of the most recent phase of the sprawling investigation stemming from state-run oil firm Petroleo Brasileiro SA. The probe has broadened to other state-run companies and ministries.

One of Hoffman’s lawyers, Guilherme Gonçalves, appeared to have taken money that Consist received from the planning ministry in 2011, Moro wrote in a dispatch, citing documents seized from Gonçalves’ law offices.

Moro said evidence also implicated Hoffman’s husband and former planning minister, Paulo Bernardo, in the scheme.

A spokeswoman for Hoffman said Moro’s request to split up the case was correct as Hoffman has privileged standing and can only be tried by the Supreme Court. Hoffman said in a statement she had no knowledge of Gonçalves’ relationship to other clients or of any campaign donation from Consist.

Hoffman was one of dozens of politicians who appeared on a list released by the Supreme Court in March and are under investigation for receiving bribes from the kickback scheme.

Federal prosecutors last week charged the first two politicians in the scandal: Eduardo Cunha, speaker of the lower house of Congress, and Fernando Collor de Mello, a former president and sitting senator.

Paulo Roberto Costa, a former executive at Petrobras, as the state-run oil company is known, also said at a congressional hearing on Tuesday that Hoffman was among those who received illegal funds from overpriced contracts. (Reporting by Caroline Stauffer and Anthony Boadle; Editing by David Gregorio)

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