Brazilian president Michel Temer facing bribery allegations

Leader fights for political life over link to payments bound for jailed colleague

Brazilian president Michel Temer: According to the “O Globo” newspaper, the president said: “You have to keep this up, okay?” during a conversation with a businessman about payments to a jailed colleague. He said he was the victim of a conspiracy. Photograph: Eraldo Peres/AP

Brazilian president Michel Temer: According to the “O Globo” newspaper, the president said: “You have to keep this up, okay?” during a conversation with a businessman about payments to a jailed colleague. He said he was the victim of a conspiracy. Photograph: Eraldo Peres/AP

 

Brazilian president Michel Temer is fighting for his political life after one of the country’s leading businessmen implicated him in buying the silence of a colleague jailed in a corruption scandal.

In a secret recording he made in March, Joesley Batista, whose family company JBS is the world’s largest meat processor, can be heard telling Mr Temer about the payments to the former head of the lower house of congress, Eduardo Cunha.

According to the O Globo newspaper, which broke the story, the president reportedly said: “You have to keep this up, okay?” The president’s office admitted the meeting took place but denied Mr Temer sought to buy the silence of Cunha, who was sentenced in March to 15 years in jail for his involvement in the scandal at state oil giant Petrobras.

Cunha orchestrated the impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff which handed the presidency to Mr Temer last year. O Globo did not say what he was being paid to keep quiet about.

Mr Temer, who was due to make a pronouncement on Thursday night, said he would refuse to resign and claimed he was the victim of a “conspiracy”.

But during a dramatic 24 hours his position was further undercut by the revelation that federal police had filmed a close political associate, congressman Rocha Loures, collecting a bag of cash from JBS.

Mr Temer’s administration is also facing the exit of a key coalition ally the social democratics after its leader, Aécio Neves, had his mandate suspended by the supreme court on Thursday.

Protests in São Paulo: Sporadic scuffles broke out in several cities as demonstrators took to the streets on Wednesday night while investors sold off Brazilian assets. Photograph: Fernando Bizerra Jr/EPA
Protests in São Paulo: Sporadic scuffles broke out in several cities as demonstrators took to the streets on Wednesday night while investors sold off Brazilian assets. Photograph: Fernando Bizerra Jr/EPA

Mr Batista said the senator asked him for more than half a million euro to pay for his defence in the multiple corruption investigations he is facing. Mr Neves, whose sister was arrested on Thursday as part of the probe, was immediately removed from the party leadership which is now expected to demand congress select a replacement for Mr Temer.

Mr Batista made his recording after deciding to co-operate with federal police who uncovered evidence of wrongdoing by a family company. In 2015 JBS bought Moy Park, Northern Ireland’s biggest largest employer.

In the last three years Brazil has been rocked by a series of interlinked corruption scandals that have tainted most political parties and left a large number of the country’s political leadership facing charges of wrongdoing. The latest developments wiped 10 per cent off the São Paulo stock exchange in early Thursday trading.