BRASILIA – Brazil’s Supreme Court has received a second set of corruption charges against President Michel Temer and must decide next week whether or not to forward them on to Congress, where allies of the head of state already voted last month not to put him on trial in a related case.
In the latest indictment filed Thursday, Brazilian Attorney General Rodrigo Janot has charged Temer and other top officials of his Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), including two Cabinet ministers, with obstruction of justice and criminal conspiracy.
The accusations are partly based on plea-bargain testimony from the owners of Brazilian meatpacking giant JBS, who said they had paid bribes to Temer – in office since his predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, was ousted via an impeachment process last year – and hundreds of other politicians for years.
One of JBS’ co-owners – former Chairman Joesley Batista – was jailed in recent days after having been found to have withheld information from prosecutors and thereby reneged on the terms of a plea deal reached by top JBS executives, although the Attorney General’s Office says the evidence he provided remains valid.
His brother, JBS CEO Wesley Batista, was arrested on Wednesday on suspicion of insider trading; he is accused of using insider information to protect his family’s financial holdings from the predictable fallout of the company’s explosive accusations against high-level politicians.
Temer’s attorneys, however, are demanding that the Supreme Court invalidate all documentation provided by those two witnesses and thereby suspend the corruption charges.
The high court is expected to hear that appeal next week, after which time Justice Edson Fachin is to decide whether or not to forward the charges on to the lower house of Congress.
If he does, a two-thirds majority of that chamber would be needed to authorize a trial in the Supreme Court, a bar considered impossibly high because of Temer’s numerous allies in the lower house.
In August, a majority of the Chamber of Deputies voted not to put Temer on trial for allegedly receiving bribes from JBS dating back to 2010.
Temer’s office on Thursday issued a statement slamming the latest charges filed by Janot, who is to step down on Sunday, saying they were filled with “absurdities.”
The indictment “talks about payments into the president’s accounts abroad without demonstrating that the president had an account in another country, makes legal campaign contributions illegal, mixes up the facts and generates confusion to try to achieve an air of truthfulness. It’s pure magical realism,” the statement said.
Among the evidence the Bastistas provided to prosecutors is an audio tape in which Temer appears to encourage the continued payment of hush money to a former speaker of the lower house of Congress, Eduardo Cunha, who was convicted of graft earlier this year and sentenced to more than 15 years in prison.
But another recording provided to prosecutors – apparently inadvertently – led to Joesley Batista being arrested on Sunday in Sao Paulo and jailed Monday in Brasilia.
In it, a conversation between the former JBS chairman and another company executive who signed the plea deal suggests they omitted evidence during their testimony.
As part of a settlement linked to the plea deal, JBS’ holding company, J&F Investimentos, agreed to pay a whopping 10.3-billion-reais ($3.3 billion) fine.