A Brazilian Federal Supreme Court justice has authorised the opening of an investigation into President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for allegedly working to obstruct the course of a sweeping corruption probe, GloboNews news channel said on Tuesday.
According to GloboNews, Justice Teori Zavascki's ruling has given Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot permission to look for additional evidence that Rousseff sought to name Lula to a cabinet post to help him avoid prosecution. In June, Zavascki barred the use of some wiretaps that showed Rousseff and Lula negotiating the cabinet appointment.
Also, Zavascki authorised the opening of separate investigations against Aloizio Mercadante and Jose Eduardo Cardozo, two former Rousseff ministers, for similar allegations.
The decision is likely to escalate pressure on the two leading political figures, whose Workers Party is ensnared in an ongoing bribes-for-state contracts scandal known in Brazil as "Operation Car Wash."
This is the first time that a Supreme Court justice has authorised an investigation into Rousseff, who is expected to stand impeachment trial in the Senate on Aug. 25 for allegedly doctoring budget accounts. Only the STF can authorise investigations against Rousseff and cabinet ministers because they enjoy immunity from prosecution.
Late last month, a federal judge pressed charges against Lula for allegedly working to obstruct the work of investigators in the Car wash probe.
According to the judge's July 30 decision, Lula and another five people allegedly conspired in an attempt to buy the silence of a former executive at state-controlled oil producer Petróleo Brasileiro SA who was involved in the scandal.