Posts Tagged ‘car wash’

Corruption-plagued Brazil gets new chief prosecutor

September 18, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Raquel Dodge, seen here at commission hearings in July, vowed to defend democracy as Brazil’s new chief prosecutor

BRASÍLIA (AFP) – A new chief prosecutor took over Monday in Brazil to oversee an avalanche of corruption investigations, including against President Michel Temer, and promised that no one would be “above the law.”Raquel Dodge replaced the hard hitting Rodrigo Janot who last week rounded off his dramatic term in office by charging Temer with racketeering and obstruction of justice.

Dodge, 56, was nominated by Temer and some analysts see the changeover as heralding a slowdown of Brazil’s huge “Car Wash” anti-graft operation. Temer has railed repeatedly against what he calls an out of control judiciary, a theme echoed by many in Congress who also have been accused of corruption.

At her swearing in ceremony in Brasilia, attended by Temer, Dodge vowed to “defend democracy” and said that her office would make sure that “no one is above the law and that no one is below the law.”

But indicating at the very least a less abrasive approach than Janot, she stressed the need for “harmony” between the different branches of government “as a requirement for the stability of the nation.”

She barely mentioned her predecessor and never referred specifically to “Car Wash.”

One of Dodge’s first big tasks as prosecutor general will be to oversee the latest charges brought against Temer by Janot last Thursday. The charges will soon be sent to the lower house of Congress for debate and, if approved, sent back to the Supreme Court which would open a trial, resulting in Temer’s suspension for 180 days.

A first criminal charge of bribe-taking filed by Janot in June was handily rejected by Temer’s allies in Congress. And analysts agree overwhelmingly that legislators will likewise toss out the latest charges.

Beyond the Temer charges, Dodge inherits the enormous case load of Janot’s probes and prosecutions targeting scores of other politicians and executives.

About a third of Temer’s cabinet is under investigation. Another high profile target is former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who has been convicted of taking bribes and faces five more graft trials.

The switch in head prosecutor also comes at a crucial time in domestic politics.

Temer is attempting to steer through far-reaching pension reform to strip back what his government says is an unsustainably generous system. While he has strong market support for this and other austerity reforms aimed at ending Brazil’s economic slump, the measures are unpopular and the president has been forced to spend much of his political capital to shore up support against the corruption charges.

However, Temer is now seen as stronger than he has been for months and Janot’s departure will boost his position further.

Although the scandals have been severely embarrassing, leading politicians are seen as unwilling to rock the boat by sending Temer to trial ahead of presidential elections in October of next year. Temer, who is deeply unpopular, is not expected to seek a new term.

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Brazil Police Raid Agricultural Minister’s Home

September 14, 2017

SAO PAULO — Brazil’s federal police conducted a raid and search operation at the house of Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi in Brasilia, related to an ongoing bribery and graft scandal, TV Globo reported on Thursday.

Image result for Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi i, photos

It said the raid is linked to a plea deal by former Mato Grosso state governor Silval Barbosa, who accuses Maggi of participating in a corruption scheme that lasted between 2007 and 2010. Maggi is also a former governor of Mato Grosso – a major producer of soybeans, grains and cattle.

Efforts to contact Maggi’s press representatives in Brasilia were unsuccessful.

(Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by W Simon)

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Brazil’s top court to consider Temer prosecutor’s recusal

September 13, 2017

AFP

© POOL/AFP/File | Lawyers for Brazil’s President Michel Temer, who could face new criminal charges, say the country’s chief prosecutor is mounting an “obsessive persecution”

BRASÍLIA (AFP) – Brazil’s Supreme Court was scheduled Wednesday to start considering a demand by President Michel Temer for the recusal of the chief prosecutor leading a corruption case against him.

Temer’s lawyers argue that the prosecutor general, Rodrigo Janot, is mounting an “obsessive persecution” and that he is “greatly exceeding the constitutional and legal limits.”

This comes as Janot is expected to file criminal charges against Temer before he leaves his post and hands over to a new chief prosecutor on Monday. Janot is expected to charge Temer with obstruction of justice.

Congress has to approve any trial of the president and in August voted overwhelmingly to toss out a first charge, which accused Temer of taking bribes. Temer is believed to retain sufficient support to ride out a second charge.

The obstruction of justice charge would depend in part on a secret recording made by meatpacking billionaire Joesley Batista in which Temer allegedly is heard calling for payments to a jailed politician to prevent him testifying.

Batista and his brother Wesley signed plea deals with prosecutors after admitting they had run a huge bribery network to benefit their company JBS.

However the leniency accord has been torn up after Joesley Batista was accused of withholding information from prosecutors.

In another motion, Temer’s lawyers are asking the Supreme Court to block any new criminal charges by Janot until clarification of what they say are irregularities in the way the Batista plea bargain evidence was collected.

The court was due to meet at about 1700 GMT but it was not clear whether the Janot-related items would be considered quickly, with delays potentially pushing the matter to another day.

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Police In Brazil Arrest Meat Executive in Corruption Probe that Includes President Michel Temer

September 13, 2017

SAO PAULO — Police have arrested the CEO of the world’s largest meatpacker on suspicion of manipulating financial markets.

Police and a representative of meatpacking giant JBS say Wesley Batista was taken into custody on Wednesday in Sao Paulo.

Batista and his brother Joesley, the former chairman of JBS, have both entered plea bargain agreements in which they testified that JBS paid bribes to scores of politicians, including President Michel Temer. Temer denies wrongdoing.

But Wesley’s arrest Wednesday related to suspicious trading in JBS shares and an unusual purchase of dollars by the company that resulted in large gains.

A warrant for Joesley’s arrest was also issued, but the executive has been in custody since Sunday. He turned himself in after questions arose about whether he had withheld information during his plea testimony.

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Brazil: New Phase of ‘Car Wash’ Corruption Probe

August 23, 2017

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil’s federal police said on Wednesday they launched a new phase of the “Car Wash” corruption probe, targeting individuals who allegedly favored a private contractor to win business from state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA.

The police served four search warrants in two states and the federal district, a statement said. There was evidence that two individuals allegedly paid bribes to help an unnamed U.S.-based company obtain Petrobras contracts, police said.

Last week, Brazilian authorities carried out two new phases of “Car Wash,” ensnaring U.S. asphalt maker Sargeant Marine, six Greek shipping companies and a former Brazilian congressman in the wide-ranging graft probe.

The phase announced Wednesday targets two lawyers who allegedly participated in the scheme, and received commissions related to the hiring of an unnamed U.S. company, according to the statement.

It is not clear if the U.S. firm implicated last week is the same as the one this week, but the police said the latest operation extends the work of recent prior phases.

The police are holding a news conference at 10 a.m. local time (1300 GMT).

Separately, late Tuesday Brazil’s Supreme Court agreed to put former president and current Senator Fernando Collor on trial on corruption charges.

Collor allegedly took millions of dollars in bribes between 2010 and 2014 to help UTC Engenharia and other firms win contracts with BR Distribuidora SA, the fuel distribution unit of Petrobras, according to prosecutors.

Collor’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Collor is the second former Brazilian president to face trial on corruption charges. Earlier this month former leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was found guilty on graft charges. He is free, pending an appeal.

(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca; Editing by W Simon and JS Benkoe)

Brazil’s Temer Seen Likely to Defeat Corruption Charges in Congress

August 2, 2017

BRASILIA — The lower house of Brazil’s Congress began debating whether President Michel Temer should stand trial on a corruption charge for allegedly taking bribes, ahead of an unprecedented vote on Wednesday that he is expected to survive.

The deeply unpopular leader is trying to shake off a scandal that has paralyzed his administration, saying he wants to focus on passing legislation needed to end a budget crisis and help pull Latin America’s largest economy from its worst recession.

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President Michel Temer  (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Opposition lawmakers chanted “Out with Temer!” on the House floor and walked in with briefcases stuffed with fake money.

Brazil’s top prosecutor Rodrigo Janot in June charged Temer with arranging to eventually receive a total of 38 million reais ($12.16 million) in bribes from the world’s largest meatpacker, JBS SA in return for political favors.

Temer and his legal team deny any wrongdoing.

The congressman responsible for recommending whether to proceed with the charge against Temer, Paulo Abi-Ackel, of the government-allied Brazilian Social Democracy Party, said the charge filed by Janot lacked proof.

He credited Temer with turning around Latin America’s largest economy, with inflation, interest rates and record unemployment falling, and incipient signs of renewed growth.

“Is this the right time to be removing the president?” Abi-Ackel said on the House floor, appealing to his peers to support Temer.

The president’s allies are confident his opponents would not muster the two-thirds of the full house vote needed to send the charge to the Supreme Court, where Temer could be put on trial.

According to Arko Advice, a Brasilia-based consulting firm, their survey of lawmakers shows Temer will win between 257 and 270 votes, enough to avoid trial, but less than the president’s supporters have said they need for a real show of strength.

TEST CASE

The lower house vote will gauge how much political capital Temer still has to block additional charges federal prosecutors are preparing to file against him and to advance a crucial overhaul of Brazil’s costly pension system.

Even some Temer opponents say it is unlikely the charge against him would advance on Wednesday.

“It is very hard to get 342 votes,” said Congressman Rubens Bueno of the Popular Socialist Party, which quit Temer’s coalition after the leader was caught up in the corruption investigation.

“What matters is how many votes he gets. If Temer does not have a comfortable majority, his government will become unstable,” Bueno told Reuters.

Temer has scrambled for support in recent days to avoid becoming the second president to be ousted in a year in a deepening crisis fueled by massive corruption investigations.

Temer’s hold on office could become precarious if new corruption charges are brought against him as expected. With the 2018 election year approaching, key lawmakers have told Reuters they would find it harder to back him again later his year.

Janot, has said he will file at least two more graft-related charges against Temer before he steps down in mid-September.

Janot is considering filing the charges of obstruction of justice and racketeering sooner if lawmakers reject the first corruption charge on Wednesday, an official with direct knowledge of the investigation told Reuters.

Janot’s team has to provide evidence linking Temer to a payment made by JBS to his right-hand man, Rodrigo Rocha Loures, who was arrested in June after a police video caught him rushing out of a Sao Paulo restaurant carrying a bag full of cash handed to him by a JBS executive.

Brazil has impeached two presidents, including Temer’s leftist predecessor Dilma Rousseff, whom he succeeded last year, in a move Rousseff called a ‘coup’ orchestrated by Temer and allies in an attempt to disrupt the corruption investigation.

But Temer would be the first to face trial for corruption if any charge against him is eventually approved.

($1 = 3.1240 reais)

(Additional reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello, Ricardo Brito and Lisandra Paraguassú; Editing by Paul Tait and Alistair Bell)

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Will Brazil’s President Michel Temer Survive Today’s Congressional Hearing Against Him?

August 2, 2017

By PETER PRENGAMAN

© AFP/File / by Damian WROCLAVSKY | Brazilian President Michel Temer could face a corruption trial — he should find out his fate on Wednesday

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — President Michel Temer appeared to have the upper-hand Wednesday going into a key vote by the lower chamber of Brazil’s Congress on whether to suspend him and put him on trial over an alleged bribery scheme to line his pockets.

Despite a 5 percent approval rating in opinion polls and myriad calls for him to resign the last few months, Temer has been able to maintain most of his governing coalition in the Chamber of Deputies, where he was the presiding officer for many years.

Opposition lawmakers are hoping at least some of his support will be eroded by members having to publicly back a toxic president on national television. Major broadcaster Globo plans to transmit Wednesday’s proceedings live and all 513 members of the house are up for election next year.

The opposition also believes that if it can’t muster the necessary votes to suspend Temer, it can at least stall a resolution by keeping enough members from entering the chamber so a quorum can’t be reached.

“Brazil and the world are watching the absurdity of the negotiations taking place in the middle of the night (at Temer’s residence), the videos, the recordings, the proof of so many crimes,” said Assis Carvalho, a lawmaker in the Workers’ Party, the leading opposition party. “It would be absurd not to authorize the continuity of this process.”

Still, the numbers appeared to be on Temer’s side. To suspend the president, two-thirds of the 513 members, or 342, would have to vote against him. The government said it had at least 50 more supporters than necessary for Temer to survive.

Speaker Rodrigo Maia, a Temer ally, told reporters late Tuesday that victory was assured.

“This will be resolved by Wednesday afternoon,” Maia said, adding it would be a relief for the country to be able to move on.

The months-long crisis is the latest fallout from a colossal corruption investigation that has led to the jailing of many of the country’s elite, including Marcelo Odebrecht, the former CEO of giant construction company Odebrecht, and Eduardo Cunho, the former lower house speaker who is serving a 15-year sentence.

Temer, who was vice president, came to power a little over a year ago when President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and later ousted for illegally managing the federal budget.

Rousseff, a member of the left-leaning Workers’ Party, accused Temer, from the ideologically barren Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, of being behind her ouster. She said Temer and others wanted her removed in part because she refused to stop the sprawling “Car Wash” corruption investigation. Temer denied that.

Since taking power, Temer’s administration has been rocked by one scandal after another while still managing to move unpopular legislation forward, such as a loosening of labor rules and proposals to trim pension benefits.

The ambitious economic overhaul agenda, supported by the business class in Latin America’s largest economy, has helped the 76-year-old Temer stay in office so far despite the uproar over corruption allegations against him.

A recording purportedly made in March emerged in which Temer apparently supported the continued payment of hush money to Cunha, the powerful former speaker believed to have dirt on many politicians.

As part of the probe, it came to light that Temer allegedly orchestrated a bribery scheme in which he would get payouts totaling millions of dollars for helping JBS, a giant meat-packing company, resolve a business issue. A former aide was arrested while carrying a suitcase with $150,000, much of which was allegedly destined for Temer.

Attorney General Rodrigo Janot opened an investigation into Temer for bribery, obstruction of justice and being part of a criminal organization. Janot ultimately filed a bribery charge against the president, though at least one of the other charges is expected by the end of August, which would prompt another suspension vote in the Chamber of Deputies.

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Associated Press video journalists Renata Brito and Mario Lobao in Brasilia contributed to this report.

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Peter Prengaman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/peterprengaman

Just 5 pct approve of Brazilian leader Temer’s government amid scandals, corruption

July 27, 2017
Brazilian president Michel Temer has been charged in connection with a scheme involving the world’s largest meatpacker, JBS.
 Brazilian president Michel Temer

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazilian President Michel Temer’s approval rating has fallen to just 5 percent and 87 percent of those asked say they do not trust the corruption-plagued leader, according to a survey released on Thursday by pollster Ibope.

The result comes just days before Congress votes on whether a charge that Temer took bribes from the world’s largest meatpacker, JBS SA (JBSS3.SA), should proceed to the Supreme Court, where he could be put on trial.

The government’s approval rating was 10 percent in the last Ibope poll taken in late March. But that was before Temer was hit by the corruption charge.

Temer’s rating has fallen below the worst result former President Dilma Rousseff received in an Ibope poll, when 9 percent of respondents said in late 2015 they approved of her government.

Rousseff was impeached last year and her then-vice president, Temer, took over. Rousseff called that a “coup” orchestrated by Temer and allies so they could impede the corruption investigations.

Despite Temer’s low approval rating, Brazilians remain split on whose government they disliked more, with 52 percent of respondents telling Ibope that Temer’s is worse than Rousseff’s.

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Thursday’s poll was commissioned by the National Confederation of Industry lobby, which surveyed 2,000 people between July 13-16 across Brazil. It has a margin of error of 2 percentage points.

Key Vote

Brazil’s lower house of congress is expected to vote next Wednesday on Temer’s corruption charge. Under Brazil’s constitution, two-thirds of deputies must vote in favor of the charge for it to proceed to the top court.

Despite slipping support in Congress for the unpopular president, Temer is widely expected to survive the vote.

Brazil’s top prosecutor, Rodrigo Janot, has said he will file at least two more graft-related charges against Temer in the coming weeks.

That would force congress to vote again to protect the unpopular leader, which several key lawmakers have told Reuters increases the political pressure on them to approve a charge.

If that occurs and the Supreme Court votes to accept the case, Temer would be suspended and the speaker of the lower chamber of Congress, Rodrigo Maia, would take over as head of state.

The top court would have 180 days to convict or acquit Temer.

Ex-chief of Brazil’s Petrobras arrested in graft probe

July 27, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Aldemar Bendine, pictured in this December 15, 2015 file photo, is accused of working with associates to organize 3 million reais in bribes from Odebrecht

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) – Brazilian federal police on Thursday arrested a former head of Petrobras and the Banco do Brasil, marking a new phase of a sweeping graft probe into the state-owned oil company.

Three people were detained in the operation, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement, as part of the “Car Wash” investigation that has uncovered systemic corruption and ensnared many of Brazil’s political and business elites.

According to the statement, ex-chief of Petrobras Aldemir Bendine and associates are “suspected of organizing bribes worth 3 million reais” (currently about $946,000) from construction conglomerate Odebrecht.

The group would have received the sum in payments “that were only interrupted” following the arrest of Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht in 2015, the statement said.

Bendine led Banco do Brasil from 2009 to 2015 and headed Petrobras from February 2015 to May 2016.

Dozens of senior leaders across the political spectrum and high-ranking businessmen have been investigated or convicted since the sprawling corruption scandal began in 2014.

Brazil Prosecutors Triple Budget for Corruption Probe

July 25, 2017

RIO DE JANEIRO — The Brazilian Attorney-General’s office has tripled its 2018 budget for a probe of a sprawling corruption scandal that has engulfed political and business leaders across Latin America.

Federal prosecutors decided Tuesday to boost spending on the so-called Car Wash investigation from $165 million initially allotted in January to more than $500 million.

The probe could get an additional $165 million later this year, though that is not certain.

High-profile targets of the investigation include former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, former lower house Speaker Eduardo Cunha and business mogul Marcelo Odebrecht.