Brazil’s President Michel Temer on Thursday was indicted on corruption-related charges for the second time in three months, with prosecutors alleging he led a political corruption racket that generated R$587m in illicit funds over the past 11 years.
Chief prosecutor Rodrigo Janot also alleged in the 245-page indictment that the president had sought to obstruct justice by authorising the payment of hush money to would-be witnesses of his various schemes.
“Michel Temer is accused of having acted as the leader of the criminal organisation,” the public prosecutors’ office said in a note on the indictment, which was filed with the supreme court.
Mr Temer vehemently denies wrongdoing. In a statement earlier this week as Mr Janot was preparing the indictment, Mr Temer's office slammed what it said was judicial over-reach that “goes so far as to attempt to condemn people . . . without concluding an investigation, without ascertaining the truth, without verifying the existence of real evidence”.
The indictment, which can only be heard by the supreme court with the permission of congress, comes as Brazil is emerging from its worst recession in history and is preparing for elections next year.
Mr Temer, who was brought to power by the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff last year, is unpopular with voters but has won the backing of markets and business with an ambitious economic reform programme.
The latest indictment was not expected to result in a trial because the president, an experienced backroom political dealer, enjoyed strong support among lawmakers in Brasília, analyst said.
An attempt to try him on different corruption-related charges last month was defeated by a vote of the lower house of congress.
“The second accusation from [the] chief prosecutor’s office is unlikely to prosper and should have the same fate as the first one,” tweeted Thiago de Aragão, a political consultant with Arko Advice in Brasília.
In the latest indictment, the chief prosecutor’s office argues that a group of politicians from Mr Temer’s Brazilian Democratic Movement party, the PMDB, lobbied various governments led by the Workers’ party, or PT, for important director and other positions in state-owned companies, including Petrobras.
They then used these appointees to siphon money out of the companies, it is alleged. Aside from Mr Temer, the politicians mentioned in the indictment included jailed former lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha and a former Temer minister Geddel Vieira Lima who was accused last week of hoarding the equivalent of R$51m in cash in an apartment.
The document also accuses serving Temer cabinet members Eliseu Padilha and Moreira Franco of involvement in the “criminal organisation”. All have denied wrongdoing.
The second charge in the indictment, of paying hush money to obstruct justice, stems from an incident in which Joesley Batista, the former chairman of JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker, taped a conversation with Mr Temer in which they allegedly discussed bribes.
The chief prosecutor alleges Mr Batista was paying bribes on behalf of Mr Temer to a former black market money dealer who worked for the PMDB, Lúcio Funaro, and Mr Cunha so that they would not enter into plea bargains with the authorities.
Get alerts on Brazil when a new story is published