Brazil's tourism minister quits amid corruption charges

Brazil's tourism minister quits amid corruption charges

Novais is the fifth cabinet member that President Dilma Rousseff has lost since she came into office in January, a period during which her chief of staff and the ministers of transportation and agriculture have all resigned as a result of corruption allegations.

Erstwhile Defense Minister Nelson Jobim stepped down over policy differences.
The 81-year-old Novais is a member of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, or PMDB, one of the pillars of the government coalition.

Vice President Michel Temer, who is also with the PMDB, confirmed to reporters that Novais had presented his resignation letter to Rousseff.

The tourism ministry issued a brief communique saying that Novais "asked to leave his post" at a meeting Wednesday afternoon at Planalto Palace, the seat of the executive branch.

Novais had been walking a tightrope for weeks, but his problems took a turn for the worse after Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported Wednesday that his wife, Maria Helena de Melo, kept a legislative aide on the congressional payroll as her "personal chauffer".

The daily illustrated its reporting with photographs in which the driver can be seen opening the car door for the minister's wife, apparently after they returned from a shopping expedition in Brasilia.

The accusation comes after another made on Tuesday by the same daily which said that while serving in Congress from 2003-10, Novais paid the salary of a housemaid with public money.

Folha also that said since January, when Novais took over the tourism ministry, the woman had been hired out to the ministry as a receptionist by the Visao Administracao company, which has a 1.5 million reais ($882,000) contract with the department for staffing services.

The federal Attorney General's Office said Wednesday that it had launched an official investigation into the cases in which Novais is implicated.

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