June 27 (UPI) -- Brazil's Public Ministry said the attorney general has charged President Michel Temer with corruption after an investigation revealed hefty bribe payments.
Attorney General Rodrigo Janot on Monday filed a complaint to the Supreme Federal Court in which he accused Temer and his federal deputy Rodrigo Rocha Loures of passive corruption for receiving about $150,000 in bribes from Joesley Batista, a food company business leader.
Janot seeks damages of about $3 million from Temer and about $600,000 from Rocha Loures, as well as their dismissal from public service. Janot said bribe payments Temer and Rocha Loures received within a nine-month period could reach up to $11 million.
"The denunciation was based on criminal investigation that proved the materiality and the authorship of the crime of passive corruption," the Public Ministry said in a statement. "In addition to the conviction for passive corruption, the attorney general seeks compensation for the transindividual damages caused ... since the damages resulting from corruption are diffused, difficult to quantify. He also calls for the loss of civil service for the holders of public office -- public employment or elective office -- for having violated their duties towards the state and society."
A Supreme Federal Court justice must decide if Brazil's lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, can vote on whether Temer should be tried.
The case against Temer initiated in May after a Brazilian newspaper reported it obtained recordings of a conversation between Temer and Batista, who secretly recorded the discussion. Temer purportedly endorsed the executive's hush money payments to silence jailed politician Eduardo Cuhna as a potential witness in a corruption investigation.
In the recording, Batista said he was paying Cuhna money to keep silent and Temer said he would have to keep up those payments, the recording purportedly shows. Batista recorded the conversation as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors related to the massive Petrobras corruption scandal.
Temer, who has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, replaced former President Dilma Rousseff in August 2016 when the Federal Senate voted to remove her from office over accusations she broke budget laws.
In November, she accused Temer of taking a $295,000 bribe she was initially accused of taking. Her lawyers said documents showed the bribe was transferred directly into the general campaign finance fund of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, to which Temer belongs.
****By Andrew V. Pestano
When News Breaks Out, We Break In. (The 2014 Bloggies Finalist)