Brazil’s Excessive Courtroom of Justice eliminated Rio de Janeiro Governor Wilson Witzel from workplace Friday, as police raided his official residence in a probe into accusations he stole emergency funds to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
The raids additionally focused the far-right governor’s spouse and interior circle. Amongst these arrested was Pastor Everaldo, an evangelical preacher and chief of Witzel’s Christian Social Social gathering (PSC).
Helicopters circled over the stately governor’s residence, Laranjeiras Palace, beginning at daybreak as federal police executed a sweeping sequence of search and seizure orders and arrest warrants.
The court docket ruling suspends Witzel, 52, from workplace for not less than 180 days as authorities examine claims he took a reported 274.2 million reals ($50 million) in kickbacks.
Prosecutors say Witzel, an erstwhile ally of President Jair Bolsonaro, arrange a slush fund for bribes as quickly as he took workplace in January 2019.
The investigation is especially targeted on allegations his administration stole emergency funds for subject hospitals, ventilators and medication to battle the brand new coronavirus.
“This prison group acted and continues appearing to embezzle and launder funds in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, sacrificing the well being and even lives of thousands and thousands of individuals,” Justice Benedito Goncalves wrote in his ruling.
The complete 15-judge court docket is because of take up the case subsequent Wednesday.
Witzel vowed to battle the choice “by any means essential.”
“I am being politically massacred as a result of there are highly effective pursuits who don’t need me governing this state,” he stated in a televised tackle from his official residence, the place he will probably be allowed to stay pending the end result of the case.
“The president has made extraordinarily severe however frivolous accusations in opposition to me, as a result of he thinks I will be a presidential candidate” in Brazil’s 2022 elections, he stated.
FROM PALACE TO JAIL
Rio is second solely to Sao Paulo in infections and deaths from the virus in Brazil, which is in flip the nation hit second-hardest on the planet, after the US, with almost 3.8 million circumstances and 120,000 folks lifeless.
Allegations of large corruption in Rio have swirled for the reason that begin of the pandemic.
Of the seven subject hospitals the state contracted to answer the well being disaster, solely two truly opened.
Witzel, a former choose, was already going through impeachment within the state legislature over the accusations.
Witzel helped Bolsonaro win the election in 2018 however has since clashed with him repeatedly, together with over the governor’s insistence on imposing coronavirus lockdown measures in opposition to the president’s needs.
Bolsonaro laughed when requested about Witzel’s authorized woes by a supporter outdoors the presidential palace in Brasilia.
“There’s quite a bit happening in Rio at the moment! Who’s the governor now, anyway?” joked the far-right chief.
“Corruption appears to have sunk deep roots in Rio,” stated Vice President Hamilton Mourao.
Together with Witzel, 5 of Rio de Janeiro’s previous six governors have now been jailed or implicated in crimes.
Probably the most infamous case was that of Sergio Cabral (2007-2014), who was jailed in 2016 and sentenced to a complete of almost 300 years in jail for varied corruption circumstances, together with one over the renovation of Rio’s iconic Maracana stadium for the 2014 World Cup.
Witzel will probably be changed on an interim foundation by Deputy Governor Claudio Castro, who can also be a goal within the corruption investigation.