BRASILIA – Brazil’s Supreme Court has ordered the suspension of a prominent senator and a key ally of that nation’s president, who faces obstruction of justice accusations and calls for him to step down.
The decision to suspend Sen. Aecio Neves was handed down by Justice Edson Fachin, who is overseeing aspects of the sprawling Petrobras corruption investigation that pertain to the high court.
Neves is facing several corruption allegations and on Thursday was the target of a police operation that included raids of several of his properties in Brasilia, Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro.
Fachin rejected a petition by prosecutors to order Neves’ arrest, although he said he forwarded the request on to the full Supreme Court.
Neves is a former presidential candidate who came in second in the 2014 elections, an ex-governor and key ally of the administration of President Michel Temer, who is facing growing calls to step down, even from members of his own party.
On Wednesday night, leading Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported that Temer had been secretly recorded supporting the payment of bribes to buy the silence of the jailed ex-speaker of Brazil’s lower house, Eduardo Cunha, who was convicted in March of receiving bribes from a crude-production contract that state oil company Petrobras signed in the African nation of Benin and sentenced to more than 15 years in prison.
O Globo said prosecutors had been handed tapes of the alleged attempt to obstruct justice as part of an apparent plea-bargain arrangement that Joesley Batista and his brother Wesley – owners of JBS, one of the world’s largest meat-packing firms – reached with prosecutors.
Joesley Batista also told prosecutors Neves was taped while asking for 2 million reais (some $645,000) that he said he needed for legal fees.
Cuhha spearheaded the impeachment process that led to the ouster of center-left President Dilma Rousseff, who was succeeded by Temer, her vice president.
Temer acknowledged Wednesday night that he met in March with Joesley Batista but he vehemently denied that that meeting was arranged to coordinate how to buy Cunha’s silence.