Brazil's Justice Minister Sergio Moro talks during an interview with Reuters in Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 12, 2019.
Brazil's Justice Minister Sergio Moro talks during an interview with Reuters in Brasilia, Brazil, Aug. 12, 2019.

BRASILIA - Brazilian Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who oversaw Brazil's biggest corruption probe as a federal judge, said on Monday he has no interest in elected office and that President Jair Bolsonaro is his candidate for the 2022 election.

"I am not a candidate for president in 2022. The government candidate, if he wants it, will be Bolsonaro," Moro told Reuters in an interview.

Moro's popularity has been dented by reports he collaborated with prosecutors investigating jailed former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, based on leaks of their alleged chats published by news website the Intercept and Brazilian media.

The Intercept and its editor, Glenn Greenwald, are not being investigated about the leaks, Moro said, although police are looking into those who apparently hacked authorities' phones.

Messages are disputed

Moro denied that the leaks had undermined his credibility as Brazil's top crime fighter. "I'm not in government to compete in a popularity contest or worry about my image," he said.

Moro disputed the authenticity of the messages published by The Intercept and added that he saw nothing "abnormal" about a Brazilian judge communicating with prosecutors in a criminal investigation.

Critics and even some supporters of Moro's anti-graft efforts have expressed concerns about messages suggesting the former judge had inappropriately steered prosecutors' efforts on cases where he eventually cast verdicts and issued sentences.

"What we had here was exacerbated sensationalism that was aimed at annulling criminal convictions, especially that of ex-president Lula," Moro said.

Continues fight against corruption

He said he took the job in Bolsonaro's government to consolidate gains in the fight against rampant corruption in Brazil and take on organized crime.

But the anti-crime package he unveiled in February has been pushed to the back burner in Congress, where the government has given priority to passing an overhaul of Brazil's pension system and other measures to close a huge budget deficit.

Moro called on lawmakers to pass his crime bill, arguing that high crime rates in Brazil were having an impact on Latin America' largest economy, putting off investment and scaring away tourism.