May 30, 2016 / 11:37 AM / 2 years ago

Brazil's anti-corruption minister criticizes Petrobras probe -Globo TV

BRASILIA, May 30 (Reuters) - The Brazilian interim government’s new minister tasked with combating corruption was heard on leaked audio tapes criticizing the sprawling graft investigation at state-run oil company Petrobras and advising the Senate leader caught up in the probe.

Globo TV on Sunday aired a partial recording of a late February meeting between new Transparency Minister Fabiano Silveira, Senate leader Renan Calheiros and Sergio Machado, an ex-senator and former head of the transportation arm of Petrobras.

Machado, who is under investigation in the Petrobras case, has since turned state’s witness and secretly recorded the meeting with Silveira and Calheiros.

Silveira is heard advising Calheiros on how he should respond to the investigation against him by Brazilian federal prosecutors. At the time of the recording, Silveira was a counselor on Brazil’s National Justice Counsel, a watchdog agency over the judiciary.

In its report, Globo TV also said some audio indicated that Silveira on several occasions spoke with prosecutors in charge of the Petrobras case to find out what information they might have on Calheiros, which he reported back to the Senate leader.

Silveira is also heard saying prosecutors were “totally lost.”

Efforts to reach the transparency ministry’s representatives were unsuccessful.

The news was the latest blow for interim President Michel Temer, who as vice president took over in mid-May when the Senate voted to move ahead with impeachment proceedings against now-suspended President Dilma Rousseff, who is accused of breaking budgetary laws.

Several members of Temer’s cabinet are under investigation in the Petrobras probe. Rousseff and others have said he plotted her downfall to stifle the investigation, which Temer strongly denies.

Last week one of Temer’s most important confidants, Senator Romero Juca, was forced from his new role as the powerful planning minister after a leaked audio, also recorded by Machado before Rousseff’s suspension, revealed him suggesting a pact made across party lines for politicians to weaken the investigation.

The two-year probe into billions in graft at Petrobras has led to jail for top executives from Brazil’s biggest construction firms and investigations of dozens of top politicians, including several members of Temer’s Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, and Rousseff’s Workers Party.

Temer was Rousseff’s vice president since she took office in 2011, and the PMDB was the strongest coalition partner for the Workers Party since 2006, when former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was in power. (Reporting by Brad Brooks; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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