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  HOME | Brazil (Click here for more)

Brazil’s President Stonewalls Corruption Probe

BRASILIA – Lawyers for Brazilian President Michel Temer said on Friday that their client would not answer questions from police pursuing a corruption investigation against the chief executive.

The Supreme Court, which has sole jurisdiction over cases involving senior officials and members of Congress, launched the probe based on allegations from business executives that Temer encouraged the payment of hush money to a former top lawmaker.

The high court judge overseeing the investigation, Luiz Edson Fachin, authorized the Federal Police to question Temer, who exercised his right to have the interrogation take the form of a written questionnaire.

Delivered to Temer on Monday, the document included more than 80 questions.

The president was originally given 24 hours to respond, but the deadline was later extended to Friday.

Temer is refusing to answer because some of the questions are “truly invasive” and “seek merely to enter the personal life of the president ... and without any connection to the investigations,” defense counsel said in a statement.

Sources in the president’s office declined to comment on the matter when contacted by EFE.

The statement from the lawyers concluded by asking Judge Fachin to shelve the investigation “as an expression of the ideal of justice.”

As part of a plea deal in another case, Joesley and Wesley Batista – owners of JBS, the world’s biggest meatpacking company – handed prosecutors a secretly taped audio recording in which Temer appeared to say that bribes needed to continue to flow to Eduardo Cunha, an ex-speaker of Brazil’s lower house of Congress sentenced to prison for corruption.

Cunha, who is one of the most prominent political figures to be ensnared in a $2 billion bribes-for-inflated contracts scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras, spearheaded the effort that led last year to then-President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment and eventual removal from office for violating budget laws.

She was replaced by Temer, who was her vice president from 2011 until last year.

Temer’s legal troubles are not limited to the JBS affair.

At the moment, a court is considering whether to overturn the Rousseff-Temer victory in the 2014 election due to violations of campaign finance laws.

With an approval rating in single digits, Temer is facing calls to resign, not only from opponents, but from some prominent figures in his own governing coalition.

He insists, however, that he will the serve the balance of Rousseff’s term, set to end on Jan. 1, 2019.

 

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