Brazil Prosecutor Charges Temer Allies as Risks Remain

(Bloomberg) -- Brazil’s chief prosecutor has filed criminal charges against some of President Michel Temer’s closest allies in a sign that turmoil linked to Operation Carwash, the country’s sweeping, three-year anti-corruption scandal, is far from over.

Among those charged are Senator Romero Juca, an important member of Temer’s inner circle of advisers and political operatives, a spokesperson for the press office of Prosecutor-General Rodrigo Janot said. A former president, Jose Sarney, and ex-Senate chief, Renan Calheiros, as well as two other senators, were also charged with passive corruption and money laundering, according to G1 news and other local media. All are members of Temer’s PMDB party. 

Calheiros issued a statement describing the move as "political" and expressed confidence the charges would be shelved. Sarney was not immediately available for comment; Juca could not be reached. Antonio Carlos de Almeida Castro, the lawyer for Juca and Sarney, said in a WhatsApp message, "there is absolutely no reason for this charge."

Separately the Supreme Court authorized an investigation into Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi on allegations he was involved in a hush money scheme, Folha de S. Paulo reported. Maggi denied any wrongdoing, saying he was outraged but calm and confident, according to an e-mailed statement.

The charges are a reminder of the potential for political volatility in a country that has seen one president impeached and dozens of corporate executives and legislators arrested in recent years. Temer himself was charged with corruption by Janot in May but the lower house of Congress voted not to put him on trial. Since then, the administration has expanded and sought to fast-track an economic reform agenda, including the massive privatization of state assets.

(Updates a corrected version of this story, which originally misstated that Sarney had issued a statement in response to charges.)