Michel Temer accused of taking millions in bribes

Brazil’s supreme court releases plea-bargain testimony that implicates president

 Brazilian president Michel Temer speaks during a televised message to the nation,  in Brasilia, Brazil. Photograph: Joédson Alves/EPA

Brazilian president Michel Temer speaks during a televised message to the nation, in Brasilia, Brazil. Photograph: Joédson Alves/EPA

 

Brazil’s supreme court released explosive plea-bargain testimony on Friday that accused president Michel Temer, along with former presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, of receiving millions in bribes.

The testimony raises serious doubts about whether Mr Temer, who replaced the impeached Ms Rousseff last year, can maintain his grip on the presidency amid the string of corruption scandals that has engulfed vast swaths of Brazil’s political class and business elites.

Mr Temer has denied any wrongdoing.

The bombshell revelations came from testimony given by executives at JBS SA, a meatpacking company that grew quickly through acquisitions funded by low-cost loans from Brazil’s development bank during 13 years of government by Lula and Rousseff’s leftist Workers’ Party.

The testimony implicates both ruling and opposition parties and indicates that Temer, a conservative, took R$15 million (€4.1 million) in bribes from JBS, which ranks as the world’s largest meat processor.

It also alleges that Lula, who is already facing five corruption trials, received R$50 million in bribes in offshore accounts from JBS, while Ms Rousseff took R$30 million in bribes, also in offshore accounts.

Lawyers for Lula said he was innocent. A lawyer for Rousseff could not immediately be contacted, though the former leader has repeatedly said she has committed no corrupt acts.

The string of corruption scandals centres on political kickbacks in exchange for firms winning contracts at state-run enterprises, especially at oil company Petrobras.

They have led to more than 90 convictions of businessmen and politicians and prompted the investigation of dozens of sitting congressmen and one-third of Mr Temer’s cabinet.

Investigation

Judge Edson Fachin of the supreme court wrote this week that an immediate investigation into Mr Temer was required because the alleged criminal practices “are under way or about to occur”.

On Thursday, Mr Temer, in a terse address to the nation, said he would not resign from the presidency.

His defiance came as the supreme court released an audio tape of him speaking with JBS chairman Joesley Batista.

In the recording, secretly made by Batista during a March visit to Temer, the president appeared to condone the payment of hush money to former lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha, who last year orchestrated Ms Rousseff’s impeachment and was later convicted for corruption.

Many politicians fear that if Cunha should turn state’s witness, his testimony could implicate scores of congressmen and members of the executive branch.

The constant march of indictments and new scandals has led to near political paralysis in Brasilia, and led to widespread calls among Brazilians for new elections.

Reuters