Brazil’s President Michel Temer lashed out Tuesday against what he described as an out of control judiciary’s use of unsubstantiated corruption allegations to destroy reputations.
The center-right leader issued the unusually strongly worded statement in the wake of new reports that he gained millions of dollars in benefits from a corruption scheme. The statement also came ahead of the expected filing of fresh criminal charges against Temer this week.
“We have reached the point where they try to convict people without even hearing them — without ending the investigation, without uncovering the truth, without verifying the existence of real proof,” Temer’s office said.
“Individual rights are being violated every day without the slightest reaction,” the statement said.
It also lambasted prosecutors’ frequent use of wire taps and plea deal testimony from businessmen and politicians admitting to corruption.
“Reputations are shattered in conversations founded on clandestine actions,” the statement said.
“Bandits concoct versions based on hearsay in exchange for impunity or to obtain a pardon, even partial, for their innumerable crimes.”
Temer’s attack on prosecutors and their methods followed leaks in the Brazilian media late Monday of a federal police probe reportedly finding that he and other leaders of his PMDB party formed a criminal “gang.”
Fresh criminal charges?
The leaks also come just as chief prosecutor Rodrigo Janot is reportedly preparing to file criminal charges against Temer, possibly for obstruction of justice.
A first criminal charge of bribe-taking lodged by Janot in June was overwhelmingly rejected by Congress, which has power to accept or throw out charges against the president. Analysts say Janot’s second charge would also have little hope of passing in the legislature.
However, the reports of the police investigation have embarrassed Temer, who is named as a key figure in the PMDB’s corrupt dealings with donors.
According to Estado de Sao Paulo newspaper, police believe Temer was in charge of placing allies in “strategic posts to negotiate with companies in the scheme and to receive money for electoral donations.”
The report said Temer received $10 million worth of unspecified “benefits” from companies, including the scandal-plagued construction giant Odebrecht.
A massive probe over the last three years codenamed operation “Car Wash” has uncovered systemic bribery of politicians by major companies like Odebrecht, as well as massive embezzlement by high ranking politicians and executives from state oil company Petrobras.
In the possible obstruction of justice charge that Temer could face from Janot, the president allegedly also authorized payments of hush money to an imprisoned former PMDB leader to prevent him from testifying.
Temer has denied any involvement in corruption or in the alleged payments to the jailed politician.
In the presidency’s statement Tuesday, it said that companies contributed to political parties in “a perfectly legal” way.
“You cannot criminalize correct actions that are protected by the constitution.”
Janot’s term as prosecutor general ends Sunday and he is going out with guns blazing. In the last few days, he has filed corruption charges against ex-presidents Luis Inacio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff, as well as several high-profile figures in the PMDB and the leftist Workers’ Party.