Brazil’s Temer cited 44 times in corruption testimony
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — A former executive at a mega-construction company cited Brazilian President Michel Temer 44 times during testimony to federal prosecutors in a corruption probe, making accusations of illegal campaign financing that put his embattled administration at an even bigger risk of ending within months.
The 82-pages of testimony by former Odebrecht director Claudio Melo Filho was obtained by The Associated Press on Saturday. If his allegations that Temer illegally financed his campaign are confirmed by Brazil’ top electoral court next year, the president will be removed and Congress will pick a successor.
Melo Filho, one of the many executives who signed plea-bargain deals in the corruption investigation at state-run oil giant Petrobras, made accusations against Temer, senior Cabinet members and close aides and allies of the president.
About 100 business executives and politicians have already been arrested or are under investigation in Brazil for allegedly overcharging contracts with Petrobras and other state-run companies to pay for bribes and election campaigns.
In the most damaging of Melo Filho’s accusations against Temer, the former executive told prosecutors that in 2014 his colleagues at Odebrecht agreed to illegally contribute some $3 million to finance Temer’s party’s election campaign.
At the time, Temer was both Brazil’s vice president and chairman of the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, known as the PMDB.
Melo Filho said he took part in a dinner with Temer at the vice presidential residence where the agreement was reached.
“Michel Temer requested, directly and personally to Marcelo (Odebrecht) financial support for the PMDB campaigns in 2014,” Melo Filho told prosecutors, referring to the former CEO of the construction company.
Temer, who took over Brazil’s presidency after his ally-turned-enemy Dilma Rousseff was impeached in May, issued a statement dismissing the allegations, calling them “false accusations.”
The plea-bargain testimony needs to be validated by Brazil’s top court to count as evidence in the electoral court investigation, but adversaries of Temer are already calling for his impeachment.
The former Odebrecht executive said that most of the $3 million was used to finance Temer’s candidate in the 2014 Sao Paulo state gubernatorial race, Paulo Skaf.
The rest of the money, according to Melo Filho’s allegations, was channeled to the man who is now Temer’s chief-of-staff, Eliseu Padilha. The executive also suggested that part of the money was paid in cash to Jose Yunes, another aide and close friend of Temer.
Melo Filho described Padilha as one of “Temer’s frontman” in the illegal payments. He said the same about Wellington Moreira Franco, one of the president’s closest advisers and an executive at Brazil’s privatization initiative.
Yunes, Padilha and Franco have already denied any wrongdoing in the case.
Many other key Brazilian politicians are accused of corruption in Melo Filho’s plea-bargain testimony.
The revelations are the latest scandal against an embattled president who has lost six ministers in six months, most of them to corruption allegations.
Allies of former President Dilma Rousseff also appear in the plea bargain as beneficiaries of bribes, although she is not implicated. Rousseff was removed from office in August for breaking fiscal laws.
Melo Filho also said that a man with close access to Rousseff was repeatedly paid off in exchange for access to the former president. Anderson Dornelles was a long-time aide of the impeached leader and was the main responsible for her schedule.
Rousseff denied any knowledge of Dornelles’ relationship with Odebrecht.
AP reporter Stan Lehman contributed from Sao Paulo.