Brazil’s president criticises prosecutors over corruption charge

Michel Temer accuses authorities of seeking ‘revenge, destruction and vengeance’

Brazilian president Michel Temer described the corruption charge made against him as “a fiction” and accused prosecutors of wanting to bring the country and congress to a halt. Photograph:  Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

Brazilian president Michel Temer described the corruption charge made against him as “a fiction” and accused prosecutors of wanting to bring the country and congress to a halt. Photograph: Evaristo Sa/AFP/Getty Images

 

In an extraordinary televised statement, Brazil’s president Michel Temer has declared war on his own federal prosecution service after it formally charged him with corruption on Monday.

Mr Temer described the charge made against him as “a fiction” and accused prosecutors of wanting to bring the country and congress to a halt and of seeking “revenge, destruction and vengeance” in a gambit that threatened to deepen Brazil’s latest constitutional crisis.

Speaking while surrounded by congressional allies, the president accused prosecutors of having “reinvented the penal code” to include a new category, “accusation by implication”.

“If someone commits a crime, and I know him . . . then the understanding now is that I am also a criminal,” he claimed in what appeared to be an attempt to distance himself from billionaire businessman Joesley Batista, whose family company J&F controls JBS, the world’s largest meat-packer.

Mr Temer held a clandestine meeting with the billionaire in March at his official residence in which a secret recording made by Mr Batista appears to show they discussed the obstruction of ongoing corruption investigations.

‘Illicit proof’

Seven weeks after the meeting, the president’s special adviser Rodrigo Rocha Loures was filmed by federal police receiving a suitcase with 500,000 reais (€135,000) in cash from one of Mr Batista’s business executives. Prosecutors claim the money was part of a 38 million reais (€10 million) bribe for Mr Temer from Mr Batista who is now co-operating with prosecutors.

In Mr Batista’s recording Mr Temer nominates Mr Rocha Loures as his intermediary describing his as “of my closest trust”. In his statement the president cited the constitution to dismiss the recording as “an illicit proof, invalid for the courts”.

In the most controversial part of his statement, delivered on Tuesday, Mr Temer used his new theory of “accusation by implication” to insinuate that chief federal prosecutor Rodrigo Janot could be the ultimate beneficiary of part of the “millions” earned by Marcelo Miller, a former prosecutor on his staff, after he went to work earlier this year for a law firm which helped negotiate J&F’s plea-bargain agreement with the prosecution service.

To buttress his insinuation the president described Mr Miller as “a trusted adviser” to Mr Janot, echoing the language he had used to describe Mr Rocha Loures, who was arrested by police earlier this month. There is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the chief federal prosecutor.

Offensive

The president’s decision to go on the offensive against prosecutors seems to be an effort to rally support in the lower chamber of congress where dozens of deputies face investigation for alleged corruption by Mr Janot’s office. The chief prosecutor’s charge against the president must be approved by two thirds of the chamber before it can pass to the supreme court for consideration.

In response to the president’s effort to undermine its case against him, the federal prosecution service said in a statement its charge was based on “federal police reports, detailed reports, flight logs, contracts, statements, recordings, photos, videos, attestations, among other documents which leave no doubt about the materiality and responsibility of the crime of passive corruption”.

A spokesman said Mr Janot would not comment on the president’s insinuation that he could have financially benefited from the hiring of Mr Miller by the law firm that negotiated J&F’s plea-bargain agreement.

In its statement the prosecution service said Mr Miller had not participated in the plea-bargain negotiations.

Mr Janot is expected to bring further corruption-related charges against the president later this week.