BRASILIA – Brazilian President Michel Temer and the woman he succeeded last year after her impeachment were acquitted on Friday in a case about the financing of their successful 2014 election campaign.
Four of the seven members of the Superior Electoral Tribunal rejected the charges against Temer and ousted former President Dilma Rousseff.
Two of the four judges who voted to acquit were named to the court by Temer and a third is a long-time associate of the president.
Judge Herman Benjamin, who argued for conviction, cited evidence from the sprawling investigation of a $2 billion bribes-for-inflated contracts scandal centered on state oil company Petrobras.
That probe uncovered proof the construction and engineering giant Odebrecht donated 150 million reais ($45 million) of illicit money to the 2014 Rousseff-Temer campaign.
But the court majority agreed with defense counsel that because the Odebrecht material was not part of the original indictment, it would be unfair to take it into account.
Temer, who had been Rousseff’s vice president since 2011, became president last year after Brazil’s first female head of state was impeached and removed for alleged violations of budget laws.
Despite the electoral tribunal’s verdict, Temer still faces legal problems.
The Supreme Court recently launched a probe based on allegations from business executives that Temer encouraged the payment of hush money to a former top lawmaker.
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 the Petrobras scandal, spearheaded the effort that led to Rousseff’s ouster.