Reuters International

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian Senators, two dozen of whom are being investigated for corruption, pushed through a bill on Wednesday that judges and prosecutors have criticized as curbing their authority to carry out investigations, mainly of corrupt politicians themselves.

The scandal-plagued Senate voted 54-19 to approve the measure that punishes public servants and members of the government, legislature and judiciary for so-called "abuse of power."

Prosecutors could be punished with up to six months' suspension for collecting evidence illegally, such as wiretaps or violation of bank secrecy rules without judicial authorization.

The vote came two weeks after the Supreme Court opened investigations into 98 politicians for receiving bribes and political kickbacks in Brazil's biggest ever corruption scandal that revolves around billions of dollars in bribes connected to projects at state-run oil company Petrobras during the past 15 years.

At least 24 senators are under investigation in the case.

The bill, which is expected to clear the lower house with equal haste, has been criticized by Judge Sergio Moro who is spearheading the unprecedented fight against corruption in Brazil. He has convicted over 80 people in the sprawling "Car Wash" anti-graft probe and currently is hearing the first corruption case lodged against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Moro and federal prosecutors have lashed out against the bill, calling it an attempt to intimidate judges and investigators and curtail them from carrying out their work.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Reuters

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