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Temer aide arrested in corruption probe

June 3, 2017

Rodrigo Rocha Loures' arrest comes after being videotaped last month running out of a restaurant with $150,000 in cash. He is thought to be a middleman for Temer, and is accused of soliciting bribes on his behalf.

Rodrigo Rocha Loures - Abgeordneter in Brasilien (Wikipedia/Gemeinfrei/R. Theodorovy)
Image: Wikipedia/R. Theodorovy

A close aide and friend to Brazilian President Michel Temer was arrested Saturday as part of a corruption investigation targeting the president.

Former Brazilian lawmaker Rodrigo Rocha Loures was arrested at his home, according to a federal police spokesman.

Loures was caught on police video last month running out of a Sao Paulo restaurant carrying a bag with 500,000 reais ($154,000) in cash. Prosecutors claim the money was a bribe from the owner of the world's biggest meatpacking company, JBS.

Brazil corruption crisis lingers on

Two executives of JBS' holding company J&F Investimentos accused Temer and other politicians of bribery. That has led prosecutors to accuse Loures of being Temer's middleman - an accusation the president denies.

Brazil's Supreme Court authorized the investigation of Temer and Loures for corruption, criminal organization and obstruction of justice, triggering the worst political crisis since Temer took over from impeached leftist Dilma Rousseff last year.

Temer has been under growing pressure to resign, or face impeachment, since a recording emerged of him seemingly condoning corrupt practices during a discussion with a JBS executive.

Proteste gegen Brasiliens Präsident Michel Temer in Rio de Janeiro
President Michel Temer is under growing pressure to resign, or face impeachmentImage: Reuters/J. Guimaraes

A cloud of suspicion

Temer has been under a cloud of suspicion for years, dating back to at least 2014, when a court began investigating him for illegal campaign funding. This case, too, could force him from office.

Loures is a businessman turned politician, who is expected to seek a plea bargain with prosecutors that could further tighten the investigative noose around Temer.

An unnamed source close to Loures claimed he has hired a lawyer to prepare a plea bargain.

Last week, Loures turned over a pile of cash to police, apparently as a first step towards reaching an agreement with prosecutors, who are investigating him for negotiating 15 million reais in bribes from JBS.

Loures' lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment. Temer's office had no immediate response to the arrest of his former aide.

Temer, who insists he hasn't done anything illegal, has said his relationship with Loures was purely "institutional," yet Loures had an office in the presidential palace close to Temer when he was Rousseff's vice president.

bik/sms (Reuters, AFP, O Globo)