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  HOME | Brazil (Click here for more)

Aide to Embattled Brazil President Arrested in Corruption Probe

BRASILIA Ė Police arrested on Saturday a former Brazilian lawmaker who has admitted accepting a bribe from a large meatpacking company that he says was intended for President Michel Temer.

Federal Police officers arrested Rodrigo Rocha Loures on the orders of Supreme Court Justice Luiz Edon Fachin, who is overseeing the high courtís investigations into a massive bribes-for-inflated-contracts scheme centered on state oil company Petrobras.

Two months ago, when he was already being monitored by the Federal Police, Rocha Loures was filmed running to a taxi carrying a bag containing 500,000 reais (roughly $156,000).

The former lawmaker, who is seeking a plea-bargain deal, has confessed that the money was a bribe paid by Brazilian meatpacking giant JBS to Temerís inner circle.

Rocha Louresí arrest could further complicate Temerís legal situation.

Last month, the Supreme Court launched an investigation into the president over allegations he accepted bribes from Brazilian meatpacking giant JBS and also encouraged that company to pay hush money to a former top lawmaker who was convicted earlier this year in connection with the Petrobras scheme and sentenced to more than 15 years in prison.

Those allegations stem from plea-bargain testimony by JBS executives, including an audio recording in which Temer appears to tell that companyís chairman, Joesley Batista, that payments to the former speaker of Brazilís lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, needed to continue to prevent him from turning stateís evidence.

Temer has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and repeatedly said he will prove his innocence in court.

JBS executives also have told prosecutors as part of plea-bargain testimony that the company paid tens of millions of dollars to Temerís two immediate predecessors, Dilma Rousseff (ousted via impeachment last year) and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in exchange for political favors.

Separately, judicial sources said Saturday that prosecutors were seeking a prison sentence for Lula, who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2010 and remains the countryís most towering political figure, in one of his corruption cases.

The petition delivered to Judge Sergio Moro corresponds to a criminal case involving allegations of concealment of assets and other crimes related to a beachfront triplex near Sao Paulo.

The property is registered in the name of OAS, one of the engineering companies implicated in the massive scheme to pay bribes to Petrobras executives to secure inflated contracts and divert extra money to politicians who provided cover for the graft.

But the indictment names Lula as its real owner.

Lula allegedly accepted renovations to the luxury apartment as a reward for giving OAS the inside track on government contracts, but the erstwhile president vehemently denies the allegations.

Lula also faces four other corruption trials that could derail his bid to recapture the presidency in 2018. Prosecutors also have filed a sixth criminal complaint against the former president.

Most of the accusations against Lula stem from the Petrobras scheme, which the politician is accused of masterminding.

Prosecutors also are seeking a prison sentence for OASís former chairman, Leo Pinheiro, and five other ex-executives of that company in the triplex case.


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