Tuesday 21 November 2017

Brazil's president accused of obstructing justice and leading criminal group

President Michel Temer has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)
President Michel Temer has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Braziil's President Michel Temer is being charged with obstruction of justice and leading a criminal organisation in a case that could see him suspended from office for up to six months.

The attorney general's office said on Thursday that the country's most senior prosecutor is accusing Mr Temer of paying hush funds to a former speaker of the lower Chamber of Deputies and to an operator of his political group.

Attorney General Rodrigo Janot also alleges that Mr Temer leads a criminal organisation that operates in Brazil's Congress and executive.

Mr Temer has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

As president, Mr Temer will only be on trial if two-thirds of Brazil's lower house votes to suspend him from office.

Mr Janot accused Mr Temer of bribery in July, but politicians refused to allow those proceedings to go forward.

In the latest accusations, Mr Janot said that Mr Temer led a criminal organisation since May 2016, when he assumed the presidency.

Mr Temer, then vice president, took over when President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and later removed from office for illegally managing the federal budget.

Mr Temer "promoted, organised and integrated willingly and personally a criminal organisation formed by more than four people, including public agents who abused their positions to commit crimes" to obtain advantages in the government and Chamber of Deputies, wrote Mr Janot.

The widely expected charges came hours after authorities raided the home of a member of Mr Temer's Cabinet.

The operation was authorised by Brazil's top court and is part of an investigation of agriculture minister Blairo Maggi, who is suspected of bribing state politicians during his 2003-2010 terms as governor of Mato Grosso.

Police also raided offices of eight state politicians and the mayor of the state capital, Cuiaba, in connection with the case.

The investigation began after a plea bargain was struck with Mr Maggi's successor as governor, Silval Barbosa.

Police did not say whether Mr Maggi was present during the raid at his apartment in the national capital, Brasilia.

Mr Maggi denied any wrongdoing in his political or business dealings.

"There was never a move by me or authorised by me to act illegally in my administration's decisions or to obstruct justice," he said.

But in the decision to green-light the raids, Supreme Court justice Luiz Fux said there was "clear evidence" that Mr Maggi also tried to obstruct justice by paying bribes to a former state government secretary.

Mr Maggi is one of Brazil's wealthiest agro-business leaders, known as the king of soybeans. He was elected senator in 2011 and named by Mr Temer to his Cabinet post in May 2016.

Mr Maggi is one of several Temer officials under investigation, and some have resigned in the last year over corruption allegations.

AP

Press Association

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