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Brazil Senate President Calheiros indicted for embezzlement

Brazil's Supreme Court has voted that Senate leader Renan Calheiros will face trial on embezzlement charges. Calheiros is a key ally of President Michel Temer, a fellow member of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party.

The Supreme Court voted 8-3 in favor of trying Calheiros, who is accused of using fake contracts to bill the Senate 45,000 Brazilian Reais ($19,090 at the time) in 2005 for car rentals in order to cover up child support payments for a daughter Calheiros had in an extramarital affair.

Calheiros faces 11 counts of corruption in total. Prosecutors have described eight of those counts as kickbacks in a massive graft scandal involving state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro S.A., also known as Petrobras.

Not the only scandal

Calheiros has faced previous accusations of corruption, including charges he travelled on an Air Force jet in order to get hair implant treatments. In 2007, he was also accused of letting a lobbyist pay child support for his illegitimate daughter. Calheiros stepped down as Senate boss to save his seat in the legislative body, before later re-emerging as a powerful figure in Brasilia politics.

Calheiros is a key ally to Brazilian President Michel Temer in the president's bid to pull the country out of recession. Temer has been linked to construction company Odebrecht, which is caught up in a major scandal of its own.

Current and former executives signed a plea deal in exchange for lighter sentences. Jailed company head Marcelo Odebrecht was reported earlier this year to have named Temer in his testimony, but Temer himself is not under formal investigation.

Temer took over as acting president in May and became full president in August after his rival Dilma Rousseff was impeached.

Calheiros' term as Senate president ends in February, long before the embezzlement case is likely to reach a conclusion. 

kbd/gsw (AFP, Reuters)

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