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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

I’m no money launderer, says Brazilian president

Michel Temer took to the airwaves to deny wrongdoing – and order a leak inquiry

Brazilian President Michel Temer defended members of his family about alleged corruption scandals at a press conference at the Planalto Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, 27 April 2018. EPA/JOEDSON ALVES
Brazilian President Michel Temer defended members of his family about alleged corruption scandals at a press conference at the Planalto Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, 27 April 2018. EPA/JOEDSON ALVES

Brazilian President Michel Temer took to television Friday to deny a report that he has laundered money and said he would urge his security minister to investigate how the allegations were leaked to the news media.

Brazil's top court has authorised an investigation into whether Mr Temer accepted a bribe in exchange for a signing a decree favourable to operators at the country's largest port in Santos.

The Folha de S. Paulo newspaper reported Friday that Federal Police suspect Mr Temer hid the alleged bribe by purchasing properties in the names of relatives, including his wife and his 9-year-old son. The paper did not name its source, and the police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a hastily arranged televised address, Mr Temer called the accusations lies and said that his income over the past 60 years has been entirely sufficient to justify the property purchases he had made.

"Only an irresponsible person, an ill-intentioned person would dare try to incriminate my family, my son of nine years old, as money launderers," he said to the journalists. "What world are we in? I tell you, sirs, it's incredible, it's revolting."

He also expressed dismay that the media received information he said his own defence team had been denied. He said he would "suggest" to Public Security Minister Raul Jungmann that he investigate the leaks. Jungmann's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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The investigation into the ports is one of several accusations against Mr Temer, and this is not the first time he has taken to the airwaves to declare his innocence.

Brazil's attorney general has already officially accused Mr Temer of corruption twice, presenting charges of bribery, leading a criminal organisation and obstruction of justice. But a sitting president can only be tried if Congress' lower house accepts the charges, and Mr Temer survived both votes in that chamber. He can still be tried after he leaves office.

He is now facing potentially a third accusation in the ports case. Recently, some friends and allies of Mr Temer were arrested in a sign the investigation is moving forward, though investigators have repeatedly asked the courts to give them more time to look into the case.