2 men in line for Brazilian presidency accused of corruption

The Associated Press

Impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff have put a spotlight on endemic corruption in the ranks of Brazil's lawmakers. Watchdog groups say about 60 percent of the 594 legislators in both chambers of Congress are being investigated for wrongdoing or are facing corruption charges, including the two men in line to replace Rousseff if she is impeached and a third who would have been in line.

In this March 2, 2016 file photo, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff talks with her Vice President Michel Temer at Planalto presidential palace in Brasilia, Brazil. Temer is the first in line to replace Rousseff if she's impeached, but is himself under investigation in the Petrobras corruption scandal. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres, File)

Impeachment proceedings against President Dilma Rousseff have put a spotlight on endemic corruption in the ranks of Brazil's lawmakers. Watchdog groups say about 60 percent of the 594 legislators in both chambers of Congress are being investigated for wrongdoing or are facing corruption charges, including the two men in line to replace Rousseff if she is impeached and a third who would have been in line.

FIRST IN LINE: Vice President Michel Temer.

A former senator turned state's witness recently accused Temer of appointing a lobbyist to distribute bribes between 1997 and 2001 in ethanol deals through Petrobras, the giant state-run oil company. He denies wrongdoing.

Temer also is accused of arranging the appointment of a Petrobras director who was involved in a series of corruption cases linked to Temer's Brazilian Democratic Movement Party. He denies knowing the man.

Temer is being investigated for receiving more than $ 1.5 million in funds from a construction company that works with Petrobras. Temer says they were legal campaign donations.

Authorities seized spreadsheets from the construction company Camargo Correa that listed Temer's name 21 times alongside numbers that added up to $345,000, allegedly in bribes. While the case was thrown out in the courts, the investigation is credited with having led to the current broader Petrobras probe.

SECOND IN LINE: Senate leader Renan Calheiros.

Calheiros would be acting president if Temer travels. Brazil's Supreme Federal Tribunal is currently considering seven investigations against Calheiros in the Petrobras probe. He denies wrongdoing.

Among the cases are accusations by a lobbyist that Calheiros was paid $600,000 to stop a Senate probe of corruption in Petrobras.

Calheiros is accused by a former Petrobras director of threatening to withhold support unless he was paid off. The same ex-director says Calheiros was paid $1.7 million through a Petrobras lobbyist in a case related to drill ship contracts.

In a plea bargain, another former Petrobras director accused Calheiros of using a legislator in the Chamber of Deputies, Anibal Gomes, to be paid bribes for contracts with constructors.

OUSTED: Former Chamber of Deputies Speaker Eduardo Cunha.

Cunha would have been second in line but was removed as speaker last week by Brazil's highest court while he is investigated in several cases. Cunha, who led the impeachment push against Rousseff in his chamber, denies wrongdoing.

Prosecutors have accused Cunha of corruption and money laundering for his role in negotiating contracts for drill ships, including a payment of $5 million.

Swiss prosecutors say Cunha held secret bank accounts at Julius Baer bank, with media reports putting their value in December at 2.4 million Swiss francs. Brazilian investigators suspect the funds are linked to corruption at a Petrobras oil operation. Brazilian investigators say Cunha also has had undeclared accounts in the U.S. since 1990 holding more than $20 million.

A senator-turned-government witness has said Cunha and his Brazilian Democratic Movement Party were paid more than $10 million by BTG Pactual bank to get an executive order approved by the lower house. A lobbyist who pleaded guilty in another case alleged Cunha was paid more than $12 million in bribes by big construction companies to win contracts to renovate Rio's port area ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games.

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