BRASILIA, Brazil, May 24 (UPI) -- Brazilian Minister of Planning Romero Jucá was forced to step down on Monday after he was caught on tape allegedly advocating for President Dilma Rousseff's impeachment in order to stop the largest corruption investigation in Brazil's history.
In tapes leaked by Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, Jucá is heard speaking to Sergio Machado, a former senator and business executive, in a manner that allegedly indicated they were attempting to obstruct the Petrobras corruption scandal. Jucá said his comments were taken out of context, adding he was speaking about the Brazilian economy and not the corruption investigation.
"I am going to ask for leave from the ministry until the Public Ministry makes its declaration," Jucá said on Monday while stepping down. "My executive secretary, Diogo Oliveira, will take responsibility for the ministry in my place."
In the tapes, Jucá appears to say Rousseff's impeachment was needed to "staunch the bleeding" and create a "political pact" necessary to "stop everything and limit things." Jucá and Machado, who secretly recorded the conversation, are both under investigation in the corruption scandal.
Rousseff's allies said Jucá's actions are proof of a conspiracy to illicitly remove Rousseff from power. The Petrobras scandal, which has shaken both the government and the semi-public oil company, and contributed to Brazil's recession, has led to dozens of arrests of former and current Petrobras executives, as well as investigations of numerous government officials.
In 2015, the Brazilian economy was nearly 5 percent smaller than it was the previous year. The Petrobras scandal is partly to blame because it led to decreases in foreign investment. The corruption scandal increased the momentum that called for Rousseff's impeachment. The Brazilian president was recently suspended for up to 180 days and she will face an impeachment trial.
Rousseff's impeachment trial is not related to Petrobras but to accusations that she juggled accounts to make her government's economic performance seem better than it truly was before she campaigned for re-election in 2014.
Rousseff was previously exonerated by authorities in the Petrobras scandal, but senior members of her government have been charged. The Brazilian Federal Police said the indicted members of the group moved more than $3.9 billion in what police term as "atypical" financial transactions in alleged contracts-for-bribes deals.