Former Temer Adviser Arrested in Latest Threat to Brazil LeaderBy
Former congressman Loures recorded taking suitcase of money
Temer has already lost cabinet members in Carwash scandal
A former Brazilian congressman and adviser to President Michel Temer was arrested on Saturday in a new threat to the embattled president, who’s under investigation amid threats of impeachment from a corruption scandal.
Rodrigo Rocha Loures was arrested on orders of Supreme Court Justice Edson Fachin, according to a statement from Brazil’s Federal Police. Loures is being investigated after being captured on video allegedly receiving a suitcase containing 500,000 reais ($154,000) from a businessman.
Cezar Roberto Bitencourt, Loures’ lawyer, and Temer’s press officer didn’t return phone calls and emails seeking comment.
The arrest comes about two weeks after the newspaper O Globo reported that Joesley Batista, former chairman of the meat-processing giant JBS SA, had secretly recorded Temer endorsing the payment of hush money to Eduardo Cunha, the jailed former Lower-House speaker instrumental in the impeachment of Temer’s predecessor, Dilma Rousseff.
As part of a plea bargain arrangement, JBS’ owners accused Loures of receiving kickbacks.
Those were just the latest turns in the sprawling corruption probe, known as Operation Carwash, that’s implicated many of the country’s business and political elite and helped bring down Rousseff. The Supreme Court has authorized an investigation into Temer on accusations of passive corruption and obstruction of justice.
Temer, 76, has repeatedly denied all accusations of wrongdoing, said he won’t resign, and has pushed ahead with economic reforms including an overhaul of Brazil’s pension system.
Loures had immunity from being arrested as a member of the Lower House, but lost his seat and that protection when Osmar Serraglio was ousted as Justice Minister and resumed his legislative term, displacing Loures, who’d been Serraglio’s deputy.
Temer, in an interview with Istoe magazine this week, called Loures a decent person and said he considered it surprising that the former adviser would receive kickbacks. Temer said he doubts whether Loures would close a plea bargain agreement or denounce him, and that any denunciation would not be true.
Both the real and the Brazilian stock market have fallen since Temer was dragged into the corruption scandal. Brazil’s Electoral Court next week is due to resume its examination of whether the 2014 Rousseff-Temer campaign was illegally financed, which could lead to the results being invalidated and Temer being forced out of office.