Brazil's new minister for transparency became the latest casualty of the Petrobras scandal after leaked recordings suggested he conspired to derail the inquiry into corruption at the state oil company.
Fabiano Silveira resigned on Monday night after just 18 days in the job, becoming the second minister in just a week forced out of the new administration of interim president Michel Temer, who replaced Dilma Rousseff on May 12th when she was suspended ahead of an impeachment trial.
In the leaked recording made in March, Mr Silveira criticised federal prosecutors and advised senate president Renan Calheiros on how to defend himself from accusations he was involved in helping siphon billions out of Petrobras.
At first Mr Silveira tried to brush off the recordings but quit after a revolt by staff in his new ministry for transparency, oversight and control. Last week Mr Temer’s planning minister Romero Jucá fell after another recording made in March emerged in which he said it was necessary to remove Ms Rousseff in order to halt the Petrobras inquiry.
The recordings reveal the anger and growing despair among Brazil’s political class at the inquiry which is increasingly closing in on leaders from all the main parties, both government and opposition.
"The whole political class is afraid because it now realises the Petrobras investigation cannot be stopped," said Paulo Kramer, a political analyst in Brasília.
Ms Rousseff's Workers' Party, commanded by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is using the shaky start by Mr Temer's interim administration to try to mobilise enough votes in the senate to prevent her impeachment.
Ms Rousseff is set to face trial in the coming months over accusations she broke Brazil’s strict fiscal laws. In order to return and finish her mandate she needs just a third of senators to vote against impeachment.
But even as he battles to restore his party to power, federal prosecutors are closing their net around Mr Lula da Silva who is accused of participating in the Petrobras scheme and then of trying to derail the investigation into it.
inquiry Meanwhile in a separate
inquiry into his family’s affairs, prosecutors are looking into the origin of €2.5 million received by Mr Lula da Silva’s youngest son and his sports marketing company between 2009 and 2015.
Luís Cláudio da Silva is already under investigation over payments received from a political lobby firm which is accused of paying bribes to secure tax exemptions for Brazil's car manufacturers. Mr da Silva junior acknowledged receiving over half a million euro from Marcondes & Mautoni saying it was payment for sports marketing services.
But prosecutors say Mr da Silva’s firm has no registered employees and that the work it carried out for Marcondes & Mautoni, which has no known involvement in sport, was copied from Wikipedia. They are now looking into whether Mr Lula da Silva arranged for lobbyists to contract his son in return for conceding state benefits to their clients.