The plane accident that killed Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki on Thursday has raised suspicions that it may have been planned since he was leading the country's biggest ever corruption case.
Federal prosecutors and police opened an investigation in addition to that of aviation authorities, who said heavy rains caused the small twin-prop plane to crash off the coast of Rio de Janeiro state. Three people onboard died and their bodies were rescued in the wreckage.
A witness to the accident, Lauro Koehler, who was on a boat near the site of the crash, told TV station GloboNews that visibility was near zero because of the rain, but that he saw the plane banking sharply and losing altitude on its approach. Brazilian authorities on Friday recovered the black box.
The 68-year-old judge had been reviewing explosive testimony from executives at engineering group Odebrecht, Latin America's largest construction firm. The evidence was expected to implicate an array of politicians in a vast kickback scandal dubbed Operation Car Wash centering on state-run oil company Petrobras.
President Michel Temer said he will open the vacancy left by Zavascki after a new rapporteur for the Car Wash case be appointed by the Supreme Court. Zavascki was responsible for investigating parts of the operation involving politicians with immunity privileges and executives from Odebrecht.
Odebrecht has admitted to paying US$1billion in bribes to obtain in contracts in 12 different countries. In the case of Brazil, there are several top politicians implicated, including members of the current government of President Temer.
Temer’s administration has not pushed back against the efforts by corrupt lawmakers who are trying to end the Car Wash probe, which has so far sent scores of top politicians and business figures to prison.