The Chief Justice of Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), Justice Cármen Lúcia Rocha, approved this morning (January 30) the plea bargain testimony of 77 executives from the construction conglomerate Odebrecht in connection with the Lava Jato corruption investigations. The testimony will remain sealed, but is expected to implicate dozens of politicians from all major Brazilian parties.

Chief Justice Cármen Lúcia’s action comes in the wake of the untimely death earlier this month of Justice Teori Zavascki in a plane crash on January 19. Many feared his death would delay the plea bargain process, as Teori was the justice tasked with overseeing the Lava Jato investigations—including the Odebrecht testimonies—and his passing leaves the ship without a captain. The criminal investigations enjoy broad popular support and Attorney General Rodrigo Janot last week urged the Court to move forward. Teori’s team, ordered to continue their work by Chief Justice Cármen Lúcia, formally submitted the final testimonies for approval on January 27. Nonetheless, Cármen Lúcia will soon need to appoint another justice as rapporteur for the case—a decision likely to face criticism regardless of who she chooses, given the politically charged nature of the case itself.

Leaks over the last several months suggest that among those implicated in the plea bargain testimony are President Michel Temer (for alledgedly receiving illegal campaign contributions), former Presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Head of Senate Renan Calheiros, Senator Romero Jucá, Governor of São Paulo Geraldo Alckmin, and Minister of Foreign Relations José Serra. Odebrecht and its subsidiary Braskem have already pleaded guilty to violating the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In December, the companies agreed to pay $3.5 billion to the Brazilian, U.S., and Swiss governments in compensation for their role in the kickback scheme centered on Brazilian state-owned energy giant Petrobras—the largest settlement on record in a corruption case. The Odebrecht testimonies are likely to lead to a new round of investigations with major ramifications for those implicated in a volatile case that, since its beginnings in March 2014, has already had profound consequences in Brazil and abroad.


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