Brazilian president faces new corruption claims

Brazilian President Michel Temer became president last year after Dilma Rousseff was impeached for fiddling government accounts

Brazil's President Michel Temer faced new allegations Thursday of receiving millions of dollars in illicit funding during his campaign as then vice president in 2014.

The latest claims emerged in what Brazilian media said was leaked testimony by jailed former construction company executive Marcelo Odebrecht, who is cooperating with prosecutors in Brazil's biggest ever corruption probe.

Odebrecht, former head of the giant Odebrecht firm, was quoted by Globo newspaper as saying that his company secretly poured some 150 million reais ($48 million at today's rate) to finance the re-election campaign of president Dilma Rousseff and her deputy Temer.

O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, quoting the same leaked testimony, reported that about 30 million reais of the 150 million were legitimate, declared donations, while the rest was illicit.

Marcelo Odebrecht was testifying before the Supreme Electoral Court, which is looking into whether the Temer-Rousseff ticket broke campaign finance rules -- meaning, in theory, that their 2014 victory might have to be annulled and new elections called.

The Odebrecht company is seen as a lynchpin in a mammoth bribery and embezzlement scheme in which corrupt politicians helped executives to win cushy contracts from state oil company Petrobras and took money in exchange for pushing favorable legislation. A total of 77 Odebrecht executives are cooperating in plea deals with prosecutors, promising a flood of allegations against politicians.

Temer, who became president last year after Rousseff was impeached for fiddling government accounts, has repeatedly said that his center-right PMDB party received only legal campaign donations from Odebrecht and that they were declared.

In a statement, the presidency did not refer to the claim of 150 million reais in donations to the presidential ticket. Instead it referred to another allegation that Odebrecht paid dirty money to Temer's PMDB party and that Temer had asked for the money during a meal with Marcelo Odebrecht.

The leaked testimony "confirms what President Michel Temer has been saying for months," the statement said. "There was a dinner but they did not talk about numbers (of money).... The party registered reception of 11.3 million reais from Odebrecht and the amount was properly declared."

Rousseff's spokesman issued a statement saying that Odebrecht's claims "are lies." Brazil's first woman president says that her removal after impeachment last year amounted to a coup d'etat.

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