June 10, 2020 / 7:57 PM / a month ago

Rio de Janeiro governor faces impeachment proceedings over graft investigations

FILE PHOTO: Rio de Janeiro's Governor Wilson Witzel is seen after a meeting with Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro at the Senate President's home in Brasilia, Brazil May 8, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado/File Photo

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Rio de Janeiro’s state legislature voted unanimously on Wednesday to start impeachment proceedings against Governor Wilson Witzel for alleged graft in the purchase of ventilators and other medical supplies to fight the COVID-19 outbreak.

The impeachment motion was one of 14 Witzel faced, based on investigations by federal police and prosecutors of suspected overpricing in contracts for equipment and the erection of field hospitals needed to relieve the state’s overburdened intensive care wards.

Witzel denied any wrongdoing. “I was elected on an anti-corruption platform and I never abandoned that cause for a minute,” he said in a statement.

A special commission will now study the accusations against Witzel, a former federal judge and member of the Social Christian Party. If the assembly votes to charge the governor, he will be suspended pending trial by a mixed tribunal of judges and assembly members.

Reporting by Rodrigo Viga Gaier; Editing by Chris Reese and Rosalba O'Brien

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