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Oct 10, 6:54 PM EDT

Brazil lawmaker argues against putting president on trial


AP Photo
AP Photo/Leo Correa

SAO PAULO (AP) -- A Brazilian lawmaker recommended Tuesday that his colleagues vote against putting President Michel Temer on trial on charges of leading a criminal organization and obstructing justice.

Last month, then-Attorney General Rodrigo Janot presented an indictment in which he accused Temer's Brazilian Democratic Movement Party of receiving nearly $190 million in bribes in exchange for political favors and influence. He said that Temer led the "criminal apparatus."

He also accused Temer of initiating the payment of hush money to jailed former Chamber of Deputies Speaker Eduardo Cunha and to a political operator - both of whom he allegedly feared could give damning evidence against him.

Bonifacio de Andrada, an ally of Temer who was appointed to study the accusation and make a recommendation, told a Chamber of Deputies committee Tuesday that the indictment doesn't offer sufficient proof of wrongdoing. He criticized prosecutors and investigators for overreaching.

De Andrada also rejected charges against Temer's Chief of Staff Eliseu Padilha and Secretary-General Wellington Moreira Franco. All three deny wrongdoing.

"The attempt to involve ministers and the president in these accusations finds no support in the many pages of the indictment," said de Andrada, a deputy.

The committee is expected to vote on the recommendation next week, and a final decision on whether to try Temer will rest with the full chamber. If two-thirds of the 513 deputies accept the indictment, Temer will be suspended for up to six months pending trial. Temer has already survived one such vote on another corruption charge.

The charges against Temer are part of a sprawling corruption investigation in Brazil which has uncovered systemic graft in the halls of power. Much of the evidence in the indictment has come from plea bargains, including those signed by executives from Brazilian companies who confessed to doling out millions of dollars in bribes to secure political favors.

Some of the evidence against Temer, for instance, came from plea deals with executives at JBS, the world's largest meatpacker. Prosecutors have since called those deals into question, accusing Joesley Batista, one of the company's owners, and other executives of withholding information.

On Tuesday, the plea bargains were in the spotlight again when prosecutors filed charges against Batista and his brother Wesley Batista, another JBS owner, for insider trading and market manipulation, accusing them of using the knowledge of their deals to gain an advantage in financial markets.

Prosecutors said in a statement that the brothers made a $32.5 million profit with a large number of foreign currency transactions before the release of the plea bargain, and avoided a loss of $43.5 million by selling company shares before the deal became public. As part of their plea bargain, the brothers admitted that JBS paid bribes to scores of politicians, including Temer.

The Batistas' lawyers said in a statement that there is nothing illegal or exceptional about transactions.

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Associated Press writer Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo contributed to this report.

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