Funeral of major graft probe judge killed in plane crash


 Reuters International

A Navy ship is seen near the wreckage from a plane, which crashed with Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki, who was overseeing a graft investigation into scores of powerful politicians, in Paraty, Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil, January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Bruno Kelly

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SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The funeral was being held on Saturday of a Brazilian Supreme Court justice who died in a plane crash after overseeing the investigation of politicians linked to the nation's largest graft scheme.

Justice Teori Zavascki was killed when the small aircraft he was in came down in heavy rain on Thursday.

Mourners said farewell to the judge at a federal courthouse in southern Brazil where he worked for many years. He was to be buried on Saturday evening.

Investigators worked to quickly determine what caused the crash of the Hawker Beechcraft C90GT twin-prop plane. It plunged into a bay, just three kilometres (two miles) short of a landing strip in the colonial tourist town of Paraty in Rio de Janeiro state.

Four others on board, including the pilot, also died.

The Brazilian Air Force, which oversees crash investigations, has not released details other than to confirm it recovered the cockpit voice recorder on Friday.

Federal police and prosecutors are conducting separate investigations to try to reassure a suspicious public, and members of their own ranks, that no foul play was involved in the deaths.

The justice was close to making public what is expected to be explosive plea bargain testimony from 77 executives of the Odebrecht [ODBES.UL] construction conglomerate.

The release of that testimony, and the entire investigation, will now be delayed, as the Supreme Court determines which justice will now take over the case.

Investigators have said Odebrecht was the company that gained the most from a vast graft scheme involving billions in bribes to win contracts with state-run oil firm Petrobras and other government-controlled companies.

Testimony from Odebrecht executives is expected to implicate upward of 200 politicians and powerful figures from the business community, greatly expanding an already massive probe and possibly also implicating the sitting President Michel Temer, who has denied any wrongdoing.

Zavascki, 68, was travelling in an aircraft belonging to a friend, Alberto Filgueiras, 69, a boutique hotelier, who also died in the crash.

Maira Panas, a 23-year-old personal massage therapist for Filgueiras, and her mother Maria Panas, 55, were also aboard, along with the pilot Osmar Rodrigues, 56.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks; Editing by Andrew Bolton)

Reuters

 Reuters International