Justice Teori Zavascki. Image courtesy of Agência Brasil/Wikimedia Commons.

A Brazilian judge overseeing a massive corruption probe into Petrobras contracts died on Thursday in a plane crash.

According to AFP, Brazilian Supreme Court Justice Teori Zavascki died when a light plane he was travelling in crashed into the water near Paraty in Rio de Janeiro state.

According to Reuters, Zavascki left the a Sao Paulo airport in a Hawker Beechcraft C90GT around 1 p.m. local time on Thursday.

Officials told Reuters that the plane crashed about an hour and a half later, about two miles from an airport in Paraty.

Zavascki, 68, was involved in a years-long corruption probe known as Operation Car Wash that is focused on investigating bribery tied to contracts with Brazil’s Petrobras.

According to the BBC, two other people died in the crash.

Police and federal authorities are investigating the incident.

Prior to his death, Zavascki was overseeing a probe into Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht.

According to the AFP, Zavascki was compiling testimony given by over 70 Odebrecht executives as part of an investigation into kickbacks that may have involved Brazilian politicians.

Billionaire construction tycoon Marcelo Odebrecht was sentenced to 19 years in prison last March on charges of money laundering, corruption and taking part in a criminal association.

Prosecutors alleged that Odebrecht, 47, paid more than $30 million in bribes to Petrobras officials in an effort to win contracts.

The scandal has landed several former Petrobras executives in jail and has ensnared some of Brazil’s most famous politicians.

Last year, Brazilian prosecutors charged former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva with corruption and money laundering for his alleged role as the “boss” of the multi-billion Petrobras corruption  scheme.

Brazilian prosecutors told Reuters that Lula was the “conductor” of a “criminal orchestra” that they claim aimed to keep the leftist Worker Party in power through “criminal means.”

Lula has denied any wrongdoing.


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