BRASILIA – Brazil’s President Michel Temer told reporters on Friday after new corruption allegations surfaced against him in the media – this time also involving close family members – that he was the target of a smear campaign.
“I want to speak out against lies being hurled against my honor. These aren’t lies aimed at my position (as president), but rather at my personal honor. And worse still, lies that affect my family and my 9-year-old son,” Temer told members of the media at the Planalto presidential palace.
Allegations that he laundered ill-begotten funds by purchasing and renovating family properties is “nonsense” and an attempt to undermine the office of the president, Temer added.
The head of state decided to issue the statement after the Folha de S. Paulo daily reported, based on apparent leaks from police probing Temer’s alleged role in a corruption scheme, that investigators suspect the president laundered bribe money by purchasing properties in the name of his wife and their nine-year-old son.
Police are looking into allegations that Temer used 2 million reais ($580,000) in bribe money to buy real estate in the name of his close relatives and renovate two other properties that belong to one of his daughters and his mother-in-law.
He is accused of receiving that money in exchange for a decree benefiting a services operator at the Port of Santos, Brazil’s busiest container port.
“I’ve worked for nearly 60 years as an attorney, professor, prosecutor, speaker of the lower house of Congress, vice president and now president. That’s nearly 60 years of salaries, fees and retirement funds received. All absolutely within the law and duly reported on my tax returns,” Temer said.
“Any accountant or math teacher could conclude that those funds received over time are enough to buy the properties I bought and renovate the ones I renovated,” he added.
Twice last year, the lower house of Congress voted to shelve corruption charges leveled against Temer.
Those charges were filed by the Attorney General’s Office and based on plea-bargain testimony by the owners of Sao Paulo-based meatpacking giant JBS, Joesley and Wesley Batista, who were both released from jail earlier this year.
Among the evidence the Batistas presented was a secretly recorded audio tape in which Temer appeared to encourage the continued payment of hush money to an ex-speaker of the lower house, Eduardo Cunha, who was convicted of graft last year and sentenced to a more than 15-year prison term.
The JBS executives also said they had paid bribes to Temer dating back to 2010 in exchange for political favors and that one of those illegal payments was made after he took office as president in 2016.