Brazil’s ex-president Michel Temer was the leader of a “criminal organization” involved in embezzlement and money laundering, the federal prosecutor alleged yesterday, after the former leader was arrested as part of a sprawling anti-corruption probe.
Police detained Temer, the 78-year-old predecessor of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, in Sao Paulo, the latest ex-leader of the Latin American country to be caught up in the so-called Car Wash investigation that has claimed dozens of political and corporate scalps.
Launched in 2014, the Car Wash investigation uncovered a vast graft operation involving state oil firm Petrobras and major construction companies and bribes to politicians of several parties.
The scale of the corruption uncovered stunned Brazilians, who have grown weary of graft among their leaders.
The investigation into Temer had uncovered “the existence of a criminal organization in full operation, involved in concrete acts of clear gravity,” the federal prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
As president, Temer was deeply unpopular among ordinary Brazilians. Whenever he spoke on television, horn honking and pot banging could be heard in major cities like Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. He was booed loudly at Maracana stadium when he opened the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Local TV channels broadcast live coverage of the latest arrests much to the delight of many viewers.
Former mines and energy minister Moreira Franco was also arrested along with several others.
Temer, Brazil’s most unpopular leader ever, faced several corruption accusations on leaving office last year. He escaped action over two allegations in 2017 when Brazil’s Congress voted to dismiss them, cementing his reputation as the ultimate survivor in one of the world’s messiest and scandal-ridden democracies.