As corruption and controversy continue to swirl around Brazil’s installed government, imposed “interim” President Michel Temer denied on Wednesday accusations that he sought illegal campaign funds for his party through a bribery scheme in the state oil company Petrobras after a prominent informant definitively linked Temer to the massive corruption scandal for the first time.
According to testimony in a plea bargain deal by former state oil executive Sergio Machado released by the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Temer requested over US$700,000 in campaign contributions from the Brazilian engineering and construction conglomerate Queiroz Galvao. While the donation was made legally through the company, the funds were obtained illegally through a bribery scheme for contracts with Petrobras.
Temer rejected the allegations, claiming that he never solicited illegal campaign donations and abided by electoral finance rules.
The imposed president, installed through what many have labeled a coup against suspended President Dilma Rousseff, was recently found guilty of breaking campaign finance laws. Citing his “dirty record” in elections, a Brazilian court ruled to bar him from standing for public office for the next eight years.
But the new allegations are even worse, implicating Temer for the first time in the investigation known as Operation Car Wash, the central anti-corruption effort that has seen dozens of politicians and business executives prosecuted for money laundering, bribery, and fraud.
The advance of the Car Wash investigations toward Temer suggests that opposition hopes that Rousseff’s ouster would foil corruption probes are falling flat. What’s more, it also drives yet another nail into the coffin of attempts by Temer’s camp to frame the impeachment process as a bid to root out government corruption.
Seven members of Temer’s entirely white male cabinet are also linked to Operation Car Wash. Two have already been forced to resign after shocking leaked recordings obtained by Machado revealed that they were conspiring to halt corruption investigations through the impeachment, including plotting with the Supreme Court.
Machado, former head of the Petrobras subsidiary Transpetro, is also a target in the Car Wash investigation, but has been offered a plea bargain deal to win leniency in exchange for information about other corrupt officials.
In his testimony, Machado claimed that conversations with Temer in 2012 “made it clear” that the then-vice president was making arrangements to “solicit illegal funds from companies that had contracts with Transpetro in the form of official donations” to the tune of 1.5 million reals, over US$700,000 by the 2012 exchange rate.
The accusations are a further blow to the unelected government, which already lacks legitimacy. The wave of controversy around Temer in his first month in office is expected to result in him losing the vote of allies in favor of impeachment in the Senate, boosting Rousseff’s chances of warding off a permanent ouster.
According to a new poll by Vox Populi, two-thirds of Brazilians have a negative opinion of Temer’s government and 32 percent think he is even worse than expected.
If the Senate, overseen by the Supreme Court, ultimately decides to impeach Rousseff with a two-thirds majority vote after her trial over allegations of manipulating government budgets, Temer will be permanently installed as president until 2018.