Brazilian graft judges threaten to resign over intimidation

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Brasília (AFP)

Brazilian prosecutors running a giant corruption probe threatened to quit Wednesday over what they said was intimidation by members of the graft-plagued Congress, many of whom face investigation.

Deltan Dallagnol, coordinator of the so-called "Carwash" probe into a gigantic embezzlement and bribery scheme centered on state oil company Petrobras, said that a bill passed in the lower house in the early hours of Wednesday amounted to an attack on the judiciary.

"The lower house signaled the end of Carwash," he said in a press conference alongside other prosecutors who threatened to resign if the bill was made law.

The controversial law is ostensibly meant to crack down on undeclared election campaign funds, a common practice in Brazilian politics that has been linked to large-scale corruption.

However, lower house deputies also inserted measures opening the way to prosecute judges for abuse of authority. Judges and prosecutors have branded this as a way of reducing the judiciary's independence.

"It would not be possible to keep working on Carwash if this intimidatory law were approved," Dallagnol said.

The probe code-named Operation Car Wash has uncovered multi-billion dollar embezzlement and bribery involving Petrobras, Brazil's biggest construction companies like Odebrecht, and a host of political parties.

High ranking figures including former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and some of Brazil's richest men face charges or have already been convicted. Dozens of members of Congress have also come into prosecutors' crosshairs.

Now with executives from Odebrecht striking cooperation agreements with prosecutors there are expectations of a wave of new politicians coming under investigation.