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Brazil's top court eases access to confidential information in criminal probes

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By Reuters
Brazil's top court eases access to confidential information in criminal probes
FILE PHOTO: Brazilian Senator Flavio Bolsonaro is seen after a meeting between Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro and Paraguay's President Mario Abdo at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil March 12, 2019. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino   -   Copyright  UESLEI MARCELINO(Reuters)

By Ricardo Brito

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s police and prosecutors can access confidential tax and financial information without a court order, the country’s Supreme Court ruled on Thursday, clearing the way for authorities to reopen an investigation of the president’s son.

A majority of the high court’s justices voted to allow public prosecutors in financial crime investigations to have access to tax documents and data at the Federal Revenue Service and central bank’s financial intelligence unit with no need for warrants.

Brazil has made strides towards increased transparency in recent years, after its infamous so-called “Operation Car Wash” probe uncovered one of the world’s largest ever corruption schemes involving bribes for public sector contracts.

Thursday’s warrantless search ruling was seen as further helping anti-corruption hardliners by allowing the investigation into President Jair Bolsonaro’s son Flavio, a senator, to move forward.

Flavio Bolsonaro has been under investigation for alleged irregular bank account movements in Rio de Janeiro when he was a state legislator.

He has denied any wrongdoing and the probe was suspended earlier this year by Supreme Court Chief Justice Jose Antonio Dias Toffoli, pending Thursday’s decision on warrantless access to financial data.

A spokesman for Flavio Bolsonaro declined to comment on the ruling.

Toffoli had argued that prosecutors should be restricted to working by court order and with judicial authorization.

Critics of his position said it could weaken Brazil’s anti-corruption fight and undermine its bid to join the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

(This story fixes spelling of Flavio in paragraph 5)

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Tom Brown)