Brazil’s Temer escapes corruption charges in committee vote

BRASILIA (Reuters) – A congressional committee voted 39-26 on Wednesday to reject charges against Brazilian President Michel Temer stemming from a corruption case involving the world’s largest meatpacker.

The full lower house of Brazil’s Congress still must vote on the charges but is expected to shelve them next week, sparing Temer from trial by the Supreme Court for alleged obstruction of justice and membership in a criminal organization.

Temer was accused of taking bribes and condoning the payment of hush money to a jailed politician in testimony by meatpacker Joesley Batista.

Temer has denied any wrongdoing and his lawyers argued that the case against him was flawed because it was based on an inconclusive recording that Batista secretly made of a conversation with the president.

The lower chamber decides whether a Brazilian president can be put on trial. Two-thirds of its members must vote to approve a charge for it to move forward, a hurdle his opponents are not expected to clear.

Temer survived an earlier corruption charge in the lower house in August in connection with the same graft scheme in which prosecutors accused him of arranging to receive a total of 38 million reais ($11.8 million) in bribes from JBS SA .

In committee debates on Wednesday, opposition Congressman Alessandro Molon, of the centre-left party called Sustainability Network, said Temer was part of a criminal organization that collected bribes. He accused the president of taking part in decisions on how the money was distributed.

Workers Party lawmakers called for Temer to stand trial, saying the charges against him were more serious than those levelled at his predecessor Dilma Rousseff, who was impeached last year for a lesser crime of violating budget rules.

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