Brazil's Supreme Court removes labor minister day after executives arrested

BRASILIA/RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Brazil’s Supreme Court has removed the nation’s labor minister from his post at the request of prosecutors, lawyers for the official said on Thursday, just a day after authorities arrested multiple high-ranking executives in a separate graft sting.

The court removed Helton Yomura temporarily at the request of federal prosecutors who are investigating a wide-ranging corruption scheme in which politicians and labor officials allegedly offered fraudulent union licenses in exchange for kickbacks.

In a statement, federal prosecutors said they executed search warrants in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil’s Federal District, taking three people into custody. Yomura was a “target” of the investigation, they said, without offering any further details.

Speaking for Yomura, his lawyers denied any wrongdoing.

“Minister Helton Yomura, even without knowing what he has been accused of, vehemently denies any allegations of a crime or wrongdoing,” they said in a statement.

The arrests of high-ranking political and business figures have become a routine matter in Brazil, particularly in Rio de Janeiro and the Federal District, where Congress and many federal agencies are located.

On Wednesday, Brazilian police arrested the chief executive officer of Latin America for General Electric Co, and raided a number of multinational firms, including Philips and Johnson & Johnson, as part of a probe into graft in the public health system.

Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu and Pedro Fonseca; Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe