BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s federal audit court is investigating whether a former education minister was on official business when he traveled to the United States a day after announcing his resignation last week, according to a court document seen by Reuters on Tuesday.
Abraham Weintraub announced his departure last week, after he became a target of a Supreme Court probe following the publication of a videotape of a cabinet meeting in which he called its judges “bums” who should be jailed.
Right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro sought an honorable exit for Weintraub, a fervent ideological defender, nominating him to be an executive director at the World Bank in Washington. The former minister flew to the United States on Friday, and his resignation became effective Saturday in the official gazette.
Most Brazilians must spend two weeks outside their country before entering the United States due to COVID-19 quarantine rules, leading to questions about whether Weintraub had used a diplomatic passport.
Lucas Furtado, a prosecutor with the federal audit court, requested authorization to investigate whether Weintraub was on an official government trip to the United States, funded with taxpayer money.
Adding to the uncertainty, Brazil’s government on Tuesday rectified Weintraub’s resignation notice, saying it occurred on Friday – which would have meant he was no longer a minister when he traveled.
“Was he running away from someone?” House Speaker Rodrigo Maia asked in a news conference. “It would be the first time in history that someone says he is in exile and has the support of the government. It is usually the other way around.”
The Education Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In a Twitter post on Monday, Weintraub thanked everyone who helped him “reach the United States safely.”
(Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)