By C.H. GARDINER
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — Brazil’s attorney general has accused President Michele Temer of sitting at the center of “an institutionalized system of corruption” and has asked the courts to charge him with crimes as soon as he leaves office at the year’s end. Attorney General Raquel Dodge filed a request late Wednesday asking the Supreme Court to assign the case to a lower court after Temer loses his limited protections from prosecution.
“The evidence we have collected in our investigations points to an ongoing pernicious scheme based on trading favors, with Michele Temer at the center creating an institutionalized system of corruption,” Dodge said.
The case focused on Grupo Rodrimar, a company accused of funneling bribes through companies associated with the president. Prosecutors say one of the companies, Argeplan, paid for renovations of Temer’s residence in 2000 and again for his daughter Maristela’s house in 2014. Argeplan paid contractors in cash much of the $330,000 spent on Maristela’s home according to Dodge.
Temer issued a statement denying the allegations, saying he would “establish through the courts that there was no irregularity in my actions involving the ports and there were no improper benefits to any company.” The petition listed five other individuals that the attorney general said took part in the scheme and asked that they be fined US$8.5 million.
Brazilian law protects sitting presidents against prosecutions by requiring a vote of Congress to authorize charges against a sitting president are pursued. On two earlier occasions, lawmakers refused to authorize prosecution of Temer on other cases.
But with Temer set to leave office in less than two weeks, Dodge asked the Supreme Court to assign the complaint to a lower court as of Jan. 1, the first day of the new government. There is also a chance prosecutors could revive the earlier attempts at prosecution that were blocked by Congress. Temer assumed Brazil’s presidential office in August 2016 after President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and removed on charges of criminal, administrative misconduct.
The incoming administration also ran into corruption controversies even before taking office. A Sao Paulo court this week convicted President-elect Jair Bolsonaro’s nominee for environment minister of fraud when he served as Sao Paulo state’s environment minister between 2016 and 2018. The court ruling published Wednesday said he modified an environmental protection plan for the Tiete River area to favor mining interests.
The court suspended his political rights for three years and imposed a fine, though it can be appealed. Salles told the Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper that he had received no personal benefit from modifying the decree, saying “There was no damage and there was nothing serious.” Scores of senior Brazilian businesspeople and politicians, including former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, have been arrested in a series of sweeping investigations into bribery and other corruption.