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  • President Michel Temer (L), who is banned from running for office for eight years, could face a political trial after Marcelo Odebrecht

    President Michel Temer (L), who is banned from running for office for eight years, could face a political trial after Marcelo Odebrecht's statements. | Photo: Reuters

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The jailed former head of Odebrecht might cause yet another political uproar with his statements.

Businessman Marcelo Odebrecht was set to testify Wednesday in front of Brazil's top electoral court as a witness in a trial seeking to investigate President Michel Temer for alleged abuse of electoral laws during the 2014 presidential campaign, when he was former President Dilma Rousseff's running mate.

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According to previous testimony by Odebrecht, his company had paid Temer contributions in exchange for political favors.

The testimony also brings into question Rousseff, who was deposed last year in process — led by allies of Temer, her former vice president — widely criticized as a a parliamentary coup.

While Temer has been banned for running for office for eight years over electoral fraud charges, Rousseff was never accused of financial impropriety or personal enrichment.

Odebrecht, former CEO of Brazil's largest construction conglomerate of the same name, is currently serving a 19-year prison sentence after being charged with corruption last year as part of the country's largest anti-corruption probe, known as Operation Car Wash. His statement, to be delivered to Herman Benjamin of the High Electoral Court, is part of a plea bargain deal to negotiate a lighter sentence. Plea bargains have been key in the success of the Car Wash investigations that have implicated dozens of politicians and corporate elites.

Imprisoned since June 2015 in Curitiba, Odebrecht reached an agreement with legal authorities, in which he presented a list and figures of politicians and business figures his company bribed as part of the corruption scheme in the state-run oil company Petrobras.

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The hearings were authorized by Minister Edson Fachin, who is the lead rapporteur for the Car Wash investigation in the federal Supreme Court.

If statements from Odebrecht and his former colleagues confirm that the origin of the politician's campaign contributions were not legal, the testimony could lay the groundwork for a possible impeachment process against President Temer, who is already barred from running for office in the next election.

However, given that leaked wiretaps revealed that the impeachment against Rousseff had more to do with protecting corruption of the country's political elite than prosecuting it — together with reinstating conservative political power that could not be won at the ballot box — it is unlikely that further fraud allegations against the unelected president will push Temer's allies in Congress to support a move for his impeachment.

Temer and several close allies and members of his Cabinet are involved in the corruption investigation, which has targeted politicians who benefited from bribery networks operating through the state-run oil company Petrobras and the construction company Odebrecht.

Odebrecht officials have been found guilty of leading a worldwide bribery scheme paying millions to "intermediaries" to secure contracts in a dozen countries.


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