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Brazil's Temer accused of obstruction of justice

May 19, 2017

Brazilian President Michel Temer has been accused of taking bribes in a scandal that engulfed both of his predecessors. The new bombshell allegations could plunge Brazil further into political chaos.

Brasilien - Korruptionsskandal - Michel Temer
Image: Reuters/U. Marcelino

Brazil's top prosecutor accused President Michel Temer of obstruction of justice and corruption on Friday. At the same time, the country's Supreme Court released testimony from a plea deal that accused Temer, as well as former presidents Dilma Rousseff and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, of taking millions in bribes.

According to a statement made under oath by Joesley Batista, the owner of the JBS meatpacking firm, transfers of $150 million (133.8 million euros) were made to offshore accounts linked to Lula and Rousseff. He said that former Finance Minister Guido Mantega acted as a middleman for the illegal funds.

Representatives for both former leaders denied the claims. Rousseff was impeached last August over different corruption allegations and claims she mismanaged Brazil's budget, while Lula is currently on trial for being the mastermind of "Operation Carwash." This is the name given to the complex web of bribery and graft that has engulfed a number of top politicians and major companies in Brazil over the past few years.

Temer accused of paying hush money

The news came just one day after reports surfaced that the Supreme Court was investigating current President Michel Temer on corruption claims. The Brazilian media, such as newspaper O Globo, have reported on recordings of Temer offering hush money to former top lawmaker Eduardo Cunha.

Temer's team has issued statements questioning the veracity of the recordings.

Lawmaker Cunha is currently serving a 15-year jail sentence for accepting bribes when he was speaker of Brazil's lower house of parliament.

On Thursday, Temer vowed that he "will not step down" and that he "did not buy the silence of anyone."

Later that day, however, the Supreme Court lifted a seal on the taped conversations originally reported on by O Globo. In them, someone that sounds like Temer can be heard saying "you have to keep that up, see?" to a voice that sounds like Batista responding "every month."

They are accused of having discussed hush money for a witness in the exchange.

Temer has only been in power for a little over a year following the impeachment of his predecessor Rousseff, a process his critics say he helped engineer in order to bring himself to power. He previously served as vice president under Rousseff.

Despite his promise not to step down, after Friday's revelations it may be difficult for Temer to cling on to power.

es/gsw (AP, AFP)