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Brazil's Car Wash Operation Uncertain after Death of Supreme Court Judge Zavascki

01/20/2017 - 12h29

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FROM SÃO PAULO

Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki, 68, died on Thursday, January 19, when his airplane crashed in Paraty (RJ), raising a series of questions regarding the future of the Brazilian Federal Police's Lava Jato operation, of which Zavascki was the rapporteur.

Justice Zavascki was about to make a decision on the ratification of the plea bargain made by construction company Odebrecht, the main company involved in the corruption scandal.

It was expected that some 900 statements given by 77 Odebrecht executives, rich in details on bribes and illegal funding paid to politicians of several parties, would be made public by Zavascki in the coming weeks.

The original schedule is now suspended and it is likely to be delayed. The accident occurred at about 1:30 p.m. when the twin-engine King Air C-90 aircraft, prefix PR-SOM, made by Beechcraft, fell in the ocean about two kilometers from the airport of Paraty, its final destination. It was raining mildly. The airplane had taken off at 1:01 from São Paulo with at least four passengers.

The twin-engine aircraft belonged to the Emiliano Empreendimentos Participações Hoteleiras company, the owner of a homonymous luxury hotel in São Paulo.

The hotel belonged to Carlos Alberto Filgueiras, who also on the plane - Filgueiras and Zavascki had been friends since 2012 - along with the pilot, Osmar Rodrigues, and at least one woman whose identity was not disclosed.

Zavascki's death led to different reactions from the judicial and political circles. Judge Sergio Moro, the head of the Lava Jato operation, said that, "without Zavascki, there would be no Lava Jato."

In a short address, President Michel Temer (PMDB) said that Zavascki "was a good man and made all Brazilians proud." The president of Brazil's Supreme Court, Justice Cármen Lúcia, said that "his work will continue forever, and his presence and example set the path from which we will never move away."

The circumstances of Zavascki's death also led to suspicions that the plane crash was not an accident and several conspiracy theories arose. One of the main investigators of the Lava Jato operation, federal sheriff Marcio Adriano Anselmo, demanded his death be investigated.

"This 'accident' must be investigated all the way to the bottom," said Anselmo. The federal police have started investigations.
With Zavascki's death, the duties of the Lava Jato rapporteur are likely to be passed on to a member of the second team of the Supreme Court, which includes justices Gilmar Mendes, Celso de Mello, Ricardo Lewandowski and Dias Toffoli.

A new position to the Supreme Court is now vacant, which will be the first nomination of President Temer.

Translated by THOMAS MUELLO

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