BRASILIA – Prosecutors filed a new corruption charge on Monday against Brazilian Senate president Renan Calheiros, a close ally of President Michel Temer.
The 61-year-old lawmaker was already facing a corruption trial on other charges in the Supreme Court.
Judicial officials said the new charge filed against Calheiros links him to the corruption scandal at state-controlled oil giant Petrobras.
Dozens of politicians are under investigation in connection with the $2 billion Petrobras corruption scandal.
Congressman Anibal Gomes was charged along with Calheiros, the Attorney General’s Office said.
Temer, Calheiros and Gomes are all members of the of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB).
In exchange for bribes, Calheiros and Gomes served as intermediaries in the negotiations with Petrobras that led to the hiring of construction company Serveng Civilsan for a series of projects undertaken by the oil company, the AG’s office alleges.
In the trial underway in the Supreme Court, Calheiros is fighting charges that he used his influence to benefit construction company Mendes Junior in exchange for the firm’s agreeing to support his out-of-wedlock daughter by journalist Monica Veloso.
Calheiros was already under investigation in 11 other cases, all linked to the massive corruption scandal at Petrobras, before the latest charge was filed.
Last Wednesday, the Supreme Court reversed an earlier ruling by one of its members suspending the indicted Calheiros from his position as head of the Senate.
The high court’s decision to keep Calheiros in his post was good news for Temer, who had been counting on his PMDB party colleague and close ally to secure Senate approval for austerity measures.
The high court then voted 8-2 on Thursday to allow prosecutors to proceed against Calheiros on corruption charges.
Brazil’s political crisis took another turn on Friday, when the press published documents outlining the deals cut by former executives of construction giant Odebrecht in exchange for reduced sentences.
The reports, although not officially confirmed, linked Temer, some of his closest allies in the Cabinet and Calheiros, who was identified in the documents with the codename “Justicia,” to the Petrobras corruption network.
The latest revelations come as lawmakers prepare to vote this week on Temer’s proposal for a constitutional amendment to limit public spending growth to the inflation rate for the next 20 years.
The proposed legislation has generated sometimes violent protests by Temer’s opponents, who contend the bill – if passed – would slash funding for education and health care.
The opposition says the austerity measures would further weaken the already recession-hit country’s economy and drag Brazil toward social upheaval.
Officials said Monday that the president cancelled his appearance at a business conference in Sao Paulo to focus on dealing with the political storm unleashed by the latest allegations.