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Brazil’s Temer to sue billionaire foe over graft accusations

By Lisandra Paraguassu and
Bruno
Federowski
| BRASILIA/SAO PAULO

BRASILIA/SAO PAULO Brazilian President
Michel Temer denied allegations made by a billionaire
businessman in a magazine interview published on Saturday that
he led a corruption scheme in which politicians squeezed
high-profile executives for bribes, and vowed to sue the
businessman.

In a statement, Temer’s office said he will take “all
appropriate actions” against billionaire Joesley Batista, who
told Época magazine that the 77-year-old politician has run a
bribe-for-favors scheme at the government since 2010.

In his first interview since striking a leniency agreement with
Brazilian prosecutors, Batista told Época that Temer asked for
money several times in recent years as he led a group of senior
politicians regularly demanding kickbacks in exchange for
political favors.

“Temer is the leader of a lower house criminal organization,”
Época quoted Batista as saying. “Those who are not under arrest
are in the government. They’re very dangerous.”

Temer’s lawyers said in the statement released by his office
that they will file civil and criminal lawsuits against Batista
as early as Monday. Press representatives for Batista and his
family’s investment holding company, J&F Investimentos SA,
were not immediately available for comment.

The coming week already promises to be a tense one for Temer
and Batista, one of Brazil’s richest businessmen. The Supreme
Court is to discuss the validity of Batista’s plea deal, and
Prosecutor-General Rodrigo Janot could file charges against the
president for corruption accusations that Batista made in May.

Temer, in his statement on Saturday, rebuffed Batista’s
allegations in the Época interview that, saying that the
billionaire repeatedly sought Temer’s help for his personal
benefit but was denied.

Temer also attacked terms of the leniency deal that allowed
Batista to escape prosecution, saying in the statement that the
terms made the billionaire “Brazil’s most successful criminal
ever.” The statement said Batista’s testimonies “puts the blame
of his crimes on others, while protecting his real partners.”
The statement did not identify anyone.

THREAT OF OUSTER

Last week, Temer escaped the threat of ouster as president
after Brazil’s top electoral court dismissed a case over
alleged illegal campaign funding for the 2014 election – in
which he ran on the same ticket of former President Dilma
Rousseff.

Rousseff was impeached last year on accusation she oversaw the
doctoring of budget accounts.

J&F agreed to pay a record-setting 10.3 billion-real ($3.1
billion) leniency fine, after Joesley Batista and his brother
Wesley admitted to bribing almost 1,900 politicians in recent
years. J&F-controlled JBS SA, the world’s No. 1 meatpacker,
is being investigated for alleged insider trading ahead of the
announcement of the Batista family’s leniency deal.

Batista denied having ordered insider trades at JBS, according
to the Época interview, adding that he believed they were all
made in line with the law.

He said J&F will sell “as many assets as necessary” to
quash concerns about the group’s solvency. J&F diversified
from meatpacking in recent years, expanding into fashion, home
cleaning, banking and pulpmaking with the help of state loans,
prosecutors said.

(Editing by Guillermo Parra-Bernal and Leslie Adler)


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