The Supreme Court justice presiding over Brazil’s biggest corruption case has died after the small plane he was travelling in crashed into the sea off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state, according to local authorities.
DeltanDallagnol, 31, is leading an investigation that has so far charged more than 70 politicians, lobbyists and industrialists, overturning decades of impunity
TeoriZavascki was among four people on board the Hawker Beechcraft twin-prop aircraft when it went down on Thursday afternoon into waters close to Rasa Island on its way from São Paulo to the city of Rio de Janeiro.
Three bodies have been recovered. Zavascki’s son, Francisco, confirmed that his father was one of the victims.
The cause is under investigation. Navy vessels, fishing boats and personnel from the army and fire department were searching the area and trying to salvage the wreckage.
Zavascki has played a crucial role in the Lava Jato (Car Wash) judicial inquiry into a bribery and kickback scandal that has implicated scores of politicians – including the current and former presidents Michel Temer and LuizInácio Lula da Silva and several dozen other prominent politicians – and resulted in the jailing of the former head of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha.
In recent days, the judge had been reviewing evidence from senior executives at Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction company, which could result in many more arrests of powerful figures in Congress and the business community.
There was no initial announcement of the cause of the crash, but the timing prompted speculation that the judge had fallen victim to foul play.
“Brazilian politics has been outdoing itself with strange cases involving authorities. It is natural to have suspicious but its too premature to say what happened,” said Edson Sardinha of the political watchdog CongressoemFoco.
“It does leave a question mark in relation to Lava Jato. Teori was responsible for over seven thousand cases, over a hundred related to Lava Jato, with confidential cases, plea bargains, and cases of politicians, ministers and executives. This reinforces the cynicism that our society already has in abundance. “
Sergio Moro, the prosecutor who has led the Lava Jato investigation for nearly three years, said in a statement that he was “perplexed” by the death of Zavascki, whom he described as a “Brazilian hero”.
“Without him, there would be no Operation Car Wash,” Moro wrote. “I hope that his legacy, of serenity, seriousness and firmness in enforcing the law, regardless of the interests of those involved, even the powerful, will not be forgotten.”
The former president DilmaRousseff, who nominated Zavascki for the supreme court, said: “Today we have lost a great Brazilian.” She said he performed his duties “with fearlessness, as a serious and upright man”.
The Lava Jato case has caused turmoil in Brazil’s political landscape. After Rousseff was impeached last year, it emerged that one of the motives of those who brought about her downfall was to try to halt the Lava Jato investigation.
As well as admirers, his work made him enemies. Last June, he confirmed that his family had been threatened, but he brushed off the dangers. (theguardian.com)