BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian President Michel Temer denied on Friday any wrongdoing following a newspaper report that police are investigating whether he laundered bribes through real estate transactions.
Federal police suspect that Temer laundered 2 million reais ($577,250) through real estate purchases and reforms made by family members, the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper reported in its Friday edition, without citing its sources.
Police did not respond to requests for confirmation.
Authorities are investigating if Temer took the bribes in return for helping shape a decree regulating Brazil’s ports, and in particular to extend concessions in the port of Santos to benefit companies of close associates.
The decree Temer signed a year ago extended contracts for companies operating at the Santos port from 25 to 35 years with an option for renewing the concession for up to 70 years.
Temer has repeatedly said he is innocent. In a televised statement of Friday, he said: “This is a criminal persecution disguised as an investigation,” adding that it was another attempt to remove him from power.
Temer has faced a several graft allegations since he took the presidency in 2016 following the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff, for whom he served as vice president.
Critics say Temer orchestrated her downfall, motivated by a desire to quash Brazilian investigators’ unprecedented anti-corruption push, an allegation Temer has denied.
Police arrested several of Temer’s aides last month, including a former police colonel suspected of taking illegal money on the president’s behalf.
The federal congress voted twice last year to block Temer from standing trial in the Supreme Court on three corruption charges leveled against him.
Once Temer leaves office on Jan. 1, 2019, and is stripped of Congressional protections against prosecution, he may have to face those charges in lower courts.
($1 = 3.4647 reais)
Reporting by Ricardo Brito in Brasilia and Brad Brooks in Sao Paulo; editing by Grant McCool
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