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Brazil must continue to prosecute Lava Jato corruption cases and appoint a committed new judge

The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki must be investigated

Transparency International, the global anti-corruption movement, calls for the Brazilian government to appoint a committed judge to continue the Lava Jato corruption cases following the sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki. He was in charge of one of the biggest corruption scandals involving senior Brazilian politicians and powerful business interests.

The government must also launch a full investigation into Justice Zavascki's death. He died on 19 January when a private plane he was travelling in crashed into the sea near Rio de Janeiro.

Justice Zavascki was the lead Supreme Court judge in the Lava Jato (Car Wash) scandal which has exposed a network of bribery and corruption among members of the Brazilian government, the state-owned oil giant Petrobras and the engineering and construction conglomerate Odebrecht. The government should not let this tragedy interrupt the important work that Justice Zavascki was undertaking.

“Our thoughts are with the family of Justice Zavascki and all the people who died in the crash. This is a terrible tragedy and a great loss of a courageous man,” said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.

“Given the sensitivity of the cases Justice Zavascki was working on, there must be a full investigation into the crash to confirm that it was an accident. It is imperative that the work of the Lava Jato Task Force goes on and that all those implicated are brought to justice, no matter how powerful they are. There must be a quick appointment of a competent and committed new Supreme Court Justice,” said Ugaz.

Justice Zavascki was about to publish in February evidence given by defendants in the corruption investigation as part of their plea bargains. This information is likely to implicate more politicians in the far-reaching scandal.

In December, Transparency International awarded the 2016 Anti-Corruption Award to the Lava Jato Task Force. The Lava Jato operation involved a global grand corruption machine made up of shell companies that funnelled more than $788 million dollars in bribes to corrupt government officials and political parties and their leaders in Angola, Argentina, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Mozambique, Panama, Peru and Venezuela.

Transparency International chapters in Latin America are also calling on the authorities in these countries to open investigations into the involvement in the alleged corruption of their public officials.

The Brazilian Congress is trying to introduce legislation that would allow prosecutors in corruption cases to be sued by defendants if they are not convicted, a move that is seen as a way to intimidate investigations. Transparency International is calling for this legislation to be withdrawn.

Note to editor: This release was amended on 20 January 2017 to fix spelling errors.

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